Lang Le, MPP'10: Bringing the Affordable Care Act from theory to practice

June 23, 2022

Lang Le, MPP'10
Illustration by Tal Friedlander

In 2008, Lang Le, MPP’10, left the nonprofit sector to join Heller’s second-ever cohort of Master of Public Policy students. Little did he know he’d forge a new career in health policy just as the U.S. health care landscape turned upside down. Le graduated in 2010 — the same year the Affordable Care Act became law — and he accepted a position at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, where he has worked ever since.

When he was a child, Le and his family immigrated to the U.S. as refugees from Vietnam. That experience fueled in him a desire to make the most of every opportunity, and, he says, “to contribute to policies and programs that continuously improve the lives of people who access and rely on Medicare to maintain their well-being and health.”

Those early months at CMS were grueling, he admits. “I was thrown into the fire,” he says.

At CMS, Le joined a group assigned with implementing ACA provisions around value-based purchasing, which ties payment to the quality (rather than the quantity) of care that patients receive. Within his first year, he drafted Reports to Congress about implementing value-based purchasing in skilled nursing facilities, home health agencies and ambulatory surgical centers.

Le is still at CMS, though he’s worked on multiple policies and in various program areas over the last 10 years. “I’ve essentially gone from helping design a value-based purchasing program for skilled nursing facilities when I first joined CMS in late 2010, to implementing a national version of that program years later,” he says.

According to Le, the COVID-19 pandemic shone a spotlight on the need for quality improvements in nursing homes, which are linked to nearly a quarter of all COVID deaths in the U.S. In his 2022 State of the Union address, President Biden recognized this program as a key tool for improving the quality of care across 15,000 nursing homes nationally.

Le, who received a Charles and Francene Rodgers Endowed Scholarship for his master’s studies, credits Heller for giving him the skills to succeed in health policy. “I am able to work on complex national health care policies with diverse internal and external stakeholders because Heller has provided me with the research, analytic and policy framework in order to be successful,” he says.

“More importantly,” he adds, “I am forever proud to represent Heller as a professional in government, and to be reminded every day that the work to advance social justice is ongoing.”