Making Federal Health-Care Policy

Pharmacy Alumni Achievement Award goes to Mark Hayes

Mark Hayes (B.S.P. ’88) is a pharmacist and lawyer with more than 25 years of experience in health law.

Currently he is senior vice president of federal policy and advocacy for Ascension, the nation’s largest nonprofit health system as well as the largest Catholic health system. Hayes previously served on the staff of four U.S. senators and as health policy director and chief health counsel for the Republican staff of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee. Hayes was a leader in the policy development on health care provisions for several pieces of federal legislation including the Affordable Care Act, Medicare Modernization Act and Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act.

His role in creating health care policy that impacts us all led him to be named the 2018 Alumni Achievement Award winner for the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Pharmacy.

Hayes recently discussed his career achievements with UMKC:

How did your interest in pharmacy begin? Have you always wanted to be a pharmacist?

My interest in pharmacy began during high school. Our hometown pharmacy was Hickey Drugs. It was right on Main Street in my home town of Shelbina, Missouri. Hickey’s had a food counter and a soda fountain. As I was growing up my dad would take me there and buy me a cherry or vanilla Coke. In high school, I loved science and I wanted to do something that would help people. My father was a funeral director, my older sister is a nurse and an older brother worked his entire career for the Boy Scouts of America. So I was looking for ways to do my part to serve others.  Pharmacy looked like a good option and so I went to work for Gene Hatcher, the pharmacist and owner of Hickey Drugs. That is where I learned how much people know and trust pharmacists and rely on their advice. So that is where my desire to be a pharmacist was born.

What made you pursue a degree in law after nearly 15 years in pharmacy? How do you use both your pharmacy and law degrees in your current role?

My interest in pursuing a law degree was derived from two interests. First, I knew I needed an advanced degree and had been working on Capitol Hill for many years. Since my primary focus was on federal policy and ultimately drafting legislation and working to get it enacted into law, getting a law degree seemed like a natural direction. Second, my wife, Katherine, had also determined a need for an advanced degree and was going to law school in the evening. While Katherine was in law school, she was constantly sharing with me the subjects and cases they were reading and discussing in class. She loved law school and her excitement for it was contagious.

Having a law degree has proven to be invaluable in the work that I do, and it has been a great complement to the clinical knowledge from the pharmacy background. In my current role at Ascension, we are constantly examining current law and regulations and how they impact health care.  The law impacts health care in so many ways, from how the Medicare and Medicaid programs work and how payment models are designed, to then approaching how these laws and regulations can be changed to support the transformation of health care toward a value-based system that supports population health. The law can be either an impediment or a driver toward the movement to value and the work to improve quality and lower costs.

You’ve worked on several pieces of federal legislation. What are you most proud of having been a part of?

The first bill that I drafted that became law was the Birth Defects Prevention Act, which became law in 1998 and was introduced by Senator Bond. We worked closely with the March of Dimes on it, and it created the authority for the Centers for Disease Control to track clusters of birth defects and establish research centers across the U.S. to understand the causes of birth defects. It was during my time first as a health policy advisor and then as the health policy director for the Senate Finance Committee where I had the most involvement in shaping health-care legislation.  The Finance Committee has the jurisdiction in the Senate over Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).  This means that any legislation affecting these programs was developed, negotiated and overseen by the small team of staff that we had on the committee.

Our team was also in the center of the Senate negotiations over the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which today is more commonly known as Obamacare. That effort did not result in a bipartisan agreement, of course, which is unfortunate. The partisan divisions from that divisive debate continue to shape health-care policy today. Despite that history, a number of important provisions were developed to transform the health-care system to one that rewards value became law in the ACA. This effort to move the health-care system to a value-based model is still being carried out today and growing in its impact as Congress and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services continue to enact additional changes that continue and expand upon these efforts to improve quality and lower the cost of healthcare.

How did UMKC contribute to your success?

UMKC gave me so many opportunities to learn leadership skills. As class president, as a member of the student council for the School of Pharmacy, and then as a national officer. The support of the students and faculty was tremendous. One person in particular, though, had a key role as a mentor and guide: Bob Piepho, who was the dean of the School of Pharmacy. Dean Piepho supported and encouraged me every step of the way.  And crucially, he created the opportunity for me to serve as the first summer intern for the United States Pharmacopeia. That internship is the reason I knew about the opportunity to apply for the American Society of Health System Pharmacists Executive Residency, which then led to the opportunity to work on Capitol Hill.  If it had not been for Dean Piepho’s support, there is no question that I would not have had those opportunities and the entire direction of my life would have changed. There are no words to describe my heartfelt and deep gratitude to Dean Piepho and to UMKC.

Each year, the UMKC Alumni Association recognizes individual alumni and one family with top honors. UMKC will honor Hayes and other outstanding alumni at the 2018 Alumni Awards event Friday, June 15, on campus. The reception is one of the university’s largest events and proceeds support student scholarships. In the last decade, the Alumni Awards event has garnered more than $1 million in scholarships and immediate aid for students.

Click here for tickets or sponsorship information for the June 15, 2018, Alumni Awards event.

Click here for more information on the 2018 Alumni Award recipients.

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