Looking Backward and Forward: My Summer in D.C. and Fall to Come

After spending three months on my own, working and living in Washington D.C. the most important thing I have learned is the value of communication. Prior to working at WSW, I had never considered the impact of tone on relationships between individuals. The tones’ one use influence how words are perceived by others.

In my personal experience, tone got me in trouble. Let me give some background. My arrival at WSW coincided with the arrival of WSW’s new associate/intern supervisor. Needless to say, she’s incredibly talented, hardworking, and has a bright future in lobbying. However, our working relationship did not get off to a good start. I take full responsibility for that. The strain in the relationship was not a consequence of what I said; but,  the tone I used and her subsequent interpretation of my response. My tone conveyed a sense of condescension and dismissiveness that I had never considered offensive up until that point. Afterwards, we discussed and resolved the situation amicably. The most important aspect of our conversation was that each of us noted the positive/negative impact of communication or lack there of in our interactions and its effect on our satisfaction in the workplace. This is a lesson that I will never forget.

Looking forward towards my fall internship at NESA, I am excited for more opportunities to collaborate and communicate with others. By virtue of function, my job this summer primarily focused on tasks that were done independently rather than in groups. Additionally, the opportunity to examine multiple areas of interest (Southeast Asia and the Middle East) excites me greatly. This is awesome opportunity to learn, work, grow, and form relationships/friendships that will last me a lifetime.

Now, sitting at home, I want to thank Dickinson College for allowing me to have an amazing experience this summer. Without your generous financial aid, none of this would have been possible.



Health Care, Where We Stand Now

Last Friday, the Senate held a vote on a “skinny” repeal of the ACA. The vote yielded a 51-nay to 49-aye result in opposition to any repeal of the ACA. Essentially, where we stand now is exactly where we stood before, unsatisfied. Now, Americans must consider whether dissatisfaction is tolerable while universally satisfactory healthcare coverage remains elusive.

Rising premiums, high cost of prescription medication, and disincentive to accept Medicaid patients are just some of the reasons why some Americans are calling for another healthcare overhaul.

In my last post, I touched on the reason why premiums are rising, I’d also like to add that as America ages, less, healthy, young Americans will have to offset more, sick, old Americans in insurance risk pools. To be clear, when I say offset, I mean subsidize. The only way to temporarily keep premiums from rising is to greatly expand the risk pool to cover new, young, healthy, policy holders via competition, incentive, penalty, or mandate. As for a long term solution, the government would need to look at a total overhaul of our current healthcare system, but I’d rather not get into that right now.

In regards to the high and rising costs of prescription medication, Congress is currently working on a solution for it. If many of you are wondering why prescription drugs under Medicaid are so expensive its because hospitals and doctors are disincentivized by current federal billing regulations to prescribe anything other than the most expensive medication available for treatment. Furthermore, Medicare and Medicaid are not able to negotiate prices with drug manufacturers and as a result, beneficiaries pay more than they should for their medication.

These are a few of the issues that we will have to confront moving forward, good luck!



Health Care, What is going on?

Reclining in a comfy chair, sipping coldbrew, I’m able to exhale for the first time in a long time.  Since the Affordable Care Act or ACA was signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 23rd, 2010 there has been an effort to repeal it. Fast forward to January 20th, 2017 Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th President of the United States, Republicans control both houses of Congress, and the Presidency. For the first time since its inception, the ACA has a real possibility of being repealed by Congress and signed out of existence by the President. Today, after weeks of covering healthcare related issues in congress for WSW, I might be able to shed a little light on the subject.

As of January 22nd, 2017 House and Senate Republicans have been unable to successfully garner the requisite support within their party to repeal the ACA without a replacement. Furthermore, the proposed replacement for the ACA, the American Health Care Act or AHCA, is generally seen as an unpassible piece of legislation that would impose dramatic cuts to Medicaid and leave 22 million Americans without healthcare.

While the proposed cuts to Medicaid would appear to result in enormous savings to tax payers, they do not. While the bill accounts for the savings accrued from reduced spending on Medicaid, it does not take into account the cost of newly uninsured Americans on the nation’s healthcare system. Simply put, doctors are required to treat patients who need assistance, regardless of their ability to afford treatment. When someone is uninsured and they receive treatment, they incur the full cost of the treatment. In fact, if they can not afford to pay for the treatment, insurance holders will in the form of higher premiums .

To the uninitiated, this might seem stupid and unfair. “Why am I paying for someone else’s treatment, someone who is uninsured and has nothing to do with me. I can barely afford my own insurance.” Well, this is because of how insurance works. Insurance is a risk industry and risk is mitigated when spread out. That means, the more people that have insurance, the cheaper it is for firms to insure people.

Beyond externalities, cuts to Medicaid result in a loss of critical healthcare services for 23% of the US population that is currently enrolled in the program. This present a major logistical problem for congress. On one hand, they could roll back services and save money. On another, Americans still want and need many of the services Medicaid provides. To complicate this issue even further, Republicans in Congress have invested substantial political capital in repealing the ACA. They almost have to repeal the ACA, as not doing so would look disastrous to their primary voter base.

With all of this in mind, Republicans have canceled the August recess and will not rest until they pass a repeal of the ACA. When will that happen? Your guess is as good as mine. However, If I had to predict when the repeal is going to occur, I’d say mid to late October of this year.

Hopefully, this clears up a little bit of your confusion. If you have any comments on my blog or questions about healthcare, feel free to email me at wolfi@dickinson.edu

Heroin, Oxycontin, and Abuse

This was an interesting week at work, to say the least. Most of my time was spent analyzing the Opioid epidemic in America. While this might seem  like odd work for an intern at a lobbying firm, I can assure you there was purpose behind it.

Let me step back for a second and explain what opioids are, how opioids affect the body, why opioids are commonly abused:

Opioids are substances that act on opioid receptors in the brain to produce pain relief, cough suppression , and suppress diarrhea. While those are some of the intended uses, a majority of opioids are used illicitly for recreational use or to stave off withdrawal symptoms. They are commonly abused because the body quickly builds up a tolerance to opioids while also becoming physically dependent on them. As dosage goes up, physical dependence increases and withdrawal symptoms worsen. Addiction starts when when the body is physically dependant on the drug. Opioid addiction is extremely problematic because addiction occurs quickly, the physical effects of withdrawal are debilitating, heroin is cheap, and opioids are widely prescribed by physicians.

Since the late 1980’s, Americans have been prescribed a steady dose of opioids to address chronic pain and injury recovery. All types Americans  have been prescribed opioids over this timeframe, so no demographic in society is left unaffected by the current epidemic.

Now that there is background, let’s explore the topic a bit more and I’ll indicate where my research comes in.

Currently, Congress is examining ways to deal with this epidemic. However, few solutions provide adequate funding for treatment or address the underlying factors that contribute to it. At the same time, biopharmaceutical companies are developing chemical solutions to reverse overdoses and treat addiction.

This is where lobbying firms come in. They connect those in need with those with means to assist those needs. In this case, those with the addiction and treatment centers are in need of funds and treatment solutions from pharmaceutical companies and the U.S. government who have the necessary resources to address the crisis.

As a firm, WSW represents various treatment centers, municipalities, pharmaceutical firms that work tirelessly to address the opioid epidemic every day. Hopefully, my research and its utilization can help WSW, Congress, and all other stakeholders address this pressing problem that plagues our nation.


Working at WSW

Today I went to hearing on the Talylor Force Act and took notes, this is just one of my responsibilities as an intern at WSW. Generally my day consists of coming into the 20 minutes early at 8:40, grab a dirty chai latte, and then head upstairs for a staff meeting. Those meetings generally consist of a roundtable discussion by WSW principles about how the firm is going to proceed with clients, marketing, internal procedure, and SWAT analysis. After the meeting, interns typically check their emails and find out what hearings they are covering on that particular  day. For the next 7 hours each day, interns engage in meaningful work for principle’s and clients of the firm. While we are not paid, I feel that the experience in itself is payment enough. The chance to engage with highly skilled individuals at the top of their profession and learn from them is worth its weight in gold.

More Food Adventures

So yesterday, I went to a restaurant that I’ve been dying to go to for the last three years. It is Lao place by the name of, Thip Khao, and needless to say the food tasted magical. I started off with  an order of Hu Muu Todd (deep fried pig ear) coated in tamarind salt (think sour/salty) and a fermented chili-fish sauce. For reference, pig ears taste meaty and gelatinous like chicharron, but with more collagen. I can not drink as I am not yet 21, but if I could, Hu Muu Todd would pair very nicely with beer, more specifically, Saison and Marzen. Next, I ordered, Tam Senh Pho Phet Phet, an extremely spicy rice noodle salad made with bird’s eye chili, padeak, shellfish paste, shrimp, green bean, eggplant, bean sprouts, and garlic. To say that it is extremely spicy is an understatement, the dish is burn your face off hot. That being said, it was sweet, sour, salty, spicy, and all kinds of delicious. Lastly, I was craving something herbal to stimulate the senses that were just erased after consuming the Tam Senh Pho Phet Phet. Naturally, I went with the Snakehead Fish Laab, a minced salad with toasted rice & chili, scallion, lemongrass, galangal, cilantro, mint, rau ram, served on a banana leaf with raw radish, cucumber, and purple sticky rice. As I put the first bite in my mouth, my senses reignited immediately. The galangal, lemongrass, mint, and chili exposed my palate to a symphony of flavors, it was sublime. Afterwards, I was lucky enough to talk to the head chef and owner, Bobby Pradachith.  He was warm, gracious, humble, and sharp. Simply put, I was just as impressed with chef as a person as I was with his food.  The whole experience validated my decision to trek to the other end of D.C. and eat at this spectacular restaurant that I had heard so much about.


What do I do on my days off?

In a city like D.C. it pays to explore, for the things you’ll find will blow your mind and leave you wanting more. Some of those things might be the fresh, steaming,  Jamaican empanadas from Julia’s in Adams Morgan or Bourbon Banana Caramel ice cream from Ice Cream Jubilee in the Naval Yard. Recently I was lucky enough to grab a late dinner at Billy Sud in Georgetown. I started with a Pate Maison: a country style pork pate with prunes, pistachios, and cornichons and finished with a luxurious Gnocchi Parisienne: a velvety cream, roasted peas, and mushrooms, it was a true delight. At the end of the meal I was cheesing sooo hard, blissfully recalling a meal that lasted an hour and half but remembered forever. Keep in mind, it’s not like I ever heard of this place before 9pm last night, so this was a wonderfully unexpected surprise in a city full of them. Thank you mom and dad and thank you Washington D.C.

Welcome To D.C.

Hey y’all, it’s Ian here and I’d love to share some thoughts about my first few weeks in the big city so far.

First off, this city has a pulse, something that can seen with eyes and felt with the heart. As soon as you step out out onto the sidewalk, the city comes alive. Whether it be the chatter of people you pass on the way to work, breeze from speeding trains in the metro, or still of the monuments at midnight, D.C. feels alive.

Secondly, the activities omg the activities!  Free Smithsonian museums, Fort Totten, the library of congress, trails that run all the way to Maryland and Virginia, Friday nights at the Kennedy theater, and did I mention FOOD, oh yes lots of that from all over the world (Ethiopia, France, Peru, and Laos).

Part 2 coming on Sunday