As a student at Randolph, Will Dede ’14 never felt a strong desire for a career in healthcare policy. However, he has always been interested in and cared about public policy, contemporary affairs, and, most importantly, helping people. Now in his job with Special Needs Plan (SNP) Alliance, he gets to do all of those things.
SNP Alliance is a national leadership organization dedicated to improving total quality and cost performance through specialized managed care and advancing integration of health care for individuals who are dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid. As an invitation-only leadership group, its membership includes representation from many of the nation’s leading health plan organizations. The SNP Alliance seeks to help government and health plan organizations improve policy and practice in care of high-risk beneficiaries including the dually eligible, frail elders, adults with disabilities, and others with serious chronic conditions.
As a health policy associate, Dede’s primary responsibility is to stay up to date on Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) regulations, rules, and guidance so that the information disseminated to states and health plan organizations is correct.
“Health plan organizations often need a place to go for up-to-date information on government rules and regulations, which are always moving, so I have to be sure I’m keeping an eye on government activities,” Dede said. “Additionally, health policy, especially policy dealing with Medicare and Medicaid, is complicated, technical, and ever-changing, so I have to be vigilant in understanding how new rules and regulations from CMS will impact different states, health plan organizations, and beneficiaries.”
Prior to his current role, Dede spent over two years working for Duty First Consulting, where he assisted the CMS in overseeing 39 state health insurance exchanges established under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). He also worked as a program analyst for the Veterans Health Administration, across from the White House in Washington, D.C. That’s where he realized his calling.
“I have continued to pursue work in health policy because it matters,” Dede said. “Lives depend on it. Veterans depend on the Veterans Health Administration to get the care they need. 10 million people who get their health insurance through the ACA exchanges depend on the exchanges to be functional in order to get the care they need. And the millions of people who are dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid rely on health plan organizations, who in turn rely on the SNP Alliance, to have the right information to better serve them.”
Outside of his work, Dede recently earned a master’s degree in public policy from American University. In both graduate school and in his career, Dede has drawn from the critical thinking and writing and research skills he learned at Randolph.
“I don’t enjoy thinking about what my professional life would be like if I had gone somewhere other than Randolph College,” Dede said. “That’s not to denigrate other colleges and universities, but Randolph positioned me so well for life after college that it’s hard for me to see myself here without it as my alma mater.
“Public policy revolves around the ability to find information, write about it, and then disseminate your findings,” Dede continued. “At Randolph, they placed an emphasis on writing skills, and the skills I developed at Randolph help me to this day. Public policy writing cannot be wordy, cannot be irrelevant, and must be factual. And professors at Randolph taught me how to write concisely, ensure what I was writing was poignant, and was of course factual.”
Dede said his majors in history and political science prepared him well for a career in the health care industry as well.
“Those who say history isn’t applicable to those who aren’t historians are wrong,” Dede said. “The number of times each day my history major, knowing about America’s past—good and bad—helps me in a situation is high. Why are some programs and policies popular in some states and not others? I look to history. Randolph’s history program requires you to dig to the next level of a situation or issue at hand. Often, the first answer isn’t right and/or complete. The history major at Randolph teaches you to not be satisfied with the first answer and to continue searching for the truth and most correct answer.
“The political science major has helped me with understanding the structure and machinations of government,” Dede said. “In the end, we’re operating within the system set up at the constitutional convention of 1787. There have been obvious changes and evolutions since then, but the structure is the same. Power is dispersed between branches and levels of government, and to properly conduct public policy one has to have an understanding of the basic structures of government. History, combined with political science, has been integral to my career.”
When asked advice he would give prospective students considering Randolph, Dede simply replied “Go to Randolph.”
“Some people may think it’s better to attend a big-name university, but it’s not,” he said. “Employers care about those who can think and have applicable skills. Can you conduct research? Show me. Can you write well? Show me. Can you work well with others? Show me. Can you think deeply? Show me. If you go to Randolph, you’ll be able to show the employer all of those skills.”
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