Leading Health Care Advocates Michele Johnson and Lourdes A. Rivera Also Join Board
Washington – Former U.S. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr., who successfully defended the landmark health care reform law, the Affordable Care Act, before the U.S. Supreme Court, has joined the National Health Law Program’s (NHeLP) Board of Directors. Two leading health care advocates, Michele Johnson, executive director of the Tennessee Justice Center, and Lourdes A. Rivera, a nationally recognized health policy expert, also joined the NHeLP Board.
“We are honored and excited to have these three individuals join our Board. They bring varied experience from high-profile careers devoted to bettering the lives of the most vulnerable among us,” said NHeLP Executive Director Elizabeth G. Taylor. “Former Solicitor General Don Verrilli has a great understanding of federal health laws, as all Supreme Court reporters and watchers can attest. Now he is joining our efforts to protect vulnerable Americans whose health care is stake in the coming debates about the future of federal health policy. He understands well the need for an effective voice on behalf of the millions of Americans, from medically fragile children to frail seniors in nursing homes who will be affected by Congress’s actions.
Lourdes Rivera, an adjunct professor at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and a former senior program officer at the Ford Foundation, is steeped in knowledge of the health rights of women, including sexual and reproductive health and rights; we look forward to having her guidance and help in what will be challenging times in defending health care for all,” Taylor continued. “Michele Johnson has done so much for thousands of children, by fighting to extend comprehensive coverage for many with special health care needs. Michele, co-founder of the Tennessee Justice Center, has worked with NHeLP for many years. We are grateful she is able to commit even more of her time to NHeLP’s mission.”
Verrilli, now a partner with Munger Tolles & Olson, said he is ready to help fight to save health care reform.
“I’ve heard from individuals and families about how important, indeed vital, health care coverage is to their lives,” Verrill said. “The Affordable Care Act is the most far-reaching federal change to the health care system this nation has seen. NHeLP recognizes this, and for almost 50 years has been fighting to protect and expand health rights for low-income individuals and underserved communities. This is a group I look forward to working with to defend and preserve the affordability of coverage provided by the ACA. In times of widening economic inequality the ACA is needed now more than ever, and it is why so many groups and individuals, including NHeLP, are committed to keeping the ACA strong.”
Johnson said, “NHeLP has been a steadfast, and indeed invaluable, partner to state advocates all over this country. Tennessee is no exception. Tennessee Justice Center has relied on guidance from NHeLP’s leading experts on Medicaid for many years. My experience representing thousands of families over the years has taught me that health care is something that affects all of us, regardless of political affiliation. I look forward to working with NHeLP as we give voice to the needs of those who cannot speak for themselves, so that we can continue progress towards a health care system that serves the needs of all Americans.”
Lourdes A. Rivera said our nation’s entitlement programs, like Medicaid, represent the noblest aspects of the country.
“A strong nation does not turn a blind-eye to those who struggle to get by on limited means,” Rivera said. “We have the means as a nation to work collectively for a better future for our nation, including our diverse families. The Affordable Care Act and its extension of Medicaid have resulted in 20 million more people being insured, and is helping those individuals and families to build a better future for themselves and this country. Now is not the time to abandon an integral part of the nation’s social safety net.”
More biographical information about the new NHeLP Board members:
Michele Johnson is co-founder and executive director of the Tennessee Justice Center. The focus of her nationally recognized legal work has been children with special health care needs. In that role, she lobbied successfully to extend health care coverage to uninsured children in working families and participated in a landmark case establishing appeal rights for TennCare patients who are denied care by their HMO. As lead counsel, she negotiated a class action settlement requiring comprehensive reform of health care for 665,000 Tennessee children enrolled in TennCare.
Ms. Johnson is the winner of the 1999 Child Advocacy Award of the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division. She was the Lawyer’s Association for Women 2016 Nashville ATHENA Award nominee and Tennessee Alliance for Progress Long Haul award winner. Tennessee Voices for Children has also recognized her work by awarding her a Lifetime Achievement Award for advocacy. In 2015, The Tennessee Bar Association recognized Ms. Johnson as the Ashley Wiltshire Public Interest Attorney of the Year. Her work has been featured in Her magazine.
Lourdes A. Rivera is the incoming Senior Vice President of U.S. Program at the Center for Reproductive Rights and a recognized leader in the fields of health law and policy, women’s rights, and sexual reproductive health and rights. Ms. Rivera is an adjunct professor at Columbia University, where she teaches a graduate level course in health and human rights. Before joining the Columbia University faculty, Ms. Rivera was as Senior Program Officer for the Ford Foundation where she designed, implemented and managed the sexual and reproductive health and rights U.S. and Global initiatives with field office partners in Africa, Asia and Latin America using social justice and human rights approach. Also at Ford, Ms. Rivera managed an annual U.S. and Global grants portfolio of up to $13.4 million and worked with grantees and donor colleagues to leverage funding and joint efforts.
Before her tenure at the Ford foundation, Ms. Rivera was managing attorney at the Los Angeles office of the National Health Law Program (NHeLP). She created NHeLP’s Initiative to Promote Access to Reproductive Health Care for Low-Income Women, which she directed for more than 10 years. She has served on the action board of the American Public Health Association (APHA) as section counselor to APHA’s Population, Family Planning and Reproductive Health Section and as a member of its Latino Caucus.
Donald B. Verrilli, Jr. is a partner with Munger, Tolles & Olson, and the founder of its Washington, D.C., office. In addition to handling matters before the U.S. Supreme Court and the courts of appeals, Mr. Verrilli’s practice focuses on representing and counseling clients on multi-dimensional problems, where litigation, regulation and public policy intersect to shape markets and industries in our evolving economy.
Mr. Verrilli is one of the nation’s premier Supreme Court and appellate advocates. He served as Solicitor General of the United States from June 2011 to June 2016. During that time, he argued 37 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, was responsible for representing the United States government in all appellate matters before the High Court and in the courts of appeals, and was a legal advisor to President Barack Obama and the Attorney General.
Founded in 1969 NHeLP advocates for the rights of low-income and underserved people to access quality health care.