Meet Our Team: Q&A with Jen Swails, Managing Director

What brought you to Sellers Dorsey?
I worked for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for 22 years. I started as a Budget Analyst for the Department of Public Welfare (now the Department of Human Services (DHS)) and spent some time in the legislature working on health and human service issues while working for the Senate Appropriations Chair then transitioned to the Office of Child Development and Early Learning. After that, I became a Special Advisor to the Secretary in the Governor’s Budget Office, which later led me back to the DHS. In 2019, I became the Secretary of the Budget for the Commonwealth with former Governor Tom Wolf’s administration and served there through the pandemic, which was especially challenging. Throughout most of my career with the State, I worked a lot in Medicaid financing, whether it was department-related or in the legislature. I had worked with Sellers Dorsey throughout my several different roles at the Commonwealth, so I was familiar with the organization and already had great relationships with the Firm. Joining Sellers Dorsey seemed like a natural progression in my career and I was excited to join the team.

What is your area of expertise?
My expertise is in Medicaid policy and budgeting processes within Pennsylvania. Having worked for the Commonwealth for 22 years in various roles, I have formed long-standing relationships with people in the Capitol and gained experience in the State’s politics. One of the key components I bring to my role at the Firm is having formed important relationships with various policy experts in the State, and those relationships are crucial to getting the Firm’s initiatives approved and implemented. Doing so ensures funding gets where it needs to go quickly so that vulnerable populations have access to quality care.

What is a project that you’ve worked on at Sellers Dorsey that you’re especially proud of?
I’m really proud of the assessments we’ve done for hospitals, nursing facilities, and managed care organizations throughout the Commonwealth that have provided them with additional funding that’s crucial to their operations and ability to serve Medical Assistance enrollees. As many people are aware, human service funding is a large part of the Commonwealth’s budget and can come under scrutiny, particularly in tight budget times. What these assessments ultimately do is increase Medicaid reimbursement rates for providers so that they can serve their communities, which then results in improved quality, equity, and access. Without the increased rates provided by the assessments, these hospitals and nursing facilities just won’t be able to survive, so the work we do there is essential.

What is your superpower?
My superpower is honesty and candor. I think everyone who knows me would say the same. I’ve been told that I can appear intimidating, but I think people just aren’t accustomed to hearing the truth. When I worked as Secretary of the Budget, honesty and candor were extremely important. When people needed money where there was none available, I had to be honest about that and at times that was very difficult, but it was essential to do my job effectively.

What do you enjoy most about your role at Sellers Dorsey?
Sellers Dorsey hires the most talented, brilliant people. I have never been someone who needs to be the smartest person in the room. I surround myself with extremely intelligent people and try to make what they’re doing easier by being an effective leader so that they can do their job to the best of their ability. Everyone who’s here wants to be here, and truly believes in the work that they’re doing.

What are the biggest challenges that you predict for the Commonwealth in the future and what are the potential solutions or opportunities?
I think one of the biggest challenges is the political environment and how that makes it difficult to offer new solutions. And I think that can be found across the country, not just in Pennsylvania. Any proposals we create need to be bipartisan and supported on both sides of the aisle. Even if you have a great idea, it likely requires legislative support and it’s harder to gain support when the government is divided.

What is a fun fact that people would be surprised to learn about you?
I think people would be surprised to hear that I sing karaoke…this started mostly by being forced by my wife, who loves it!

What was your very first job?
At 12 years old, I delivered the Sunday paper. I grew up in a very rural area, so it wasn’t something I could do on my bike. My parents had to get up at 4 am and they would drive around with me in the back of my dad’s pickup truck throwing newspapers to houses.

What is your all-time favorite movie?
I’m a big fan of Pretty Woman…Fried Green Tomatoes is a great movie too that not everyone’s seen.


Want to learn more about Jen’s experience in Medicaid and healthcare policy? Click here to explore more about her role as Managing Director at Sellers Dorsey!

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