38th ECFC Annual Conference Speakers





Jody Dietel is Chair and an active board member of the Employers Council on Flexible Compensation (ECFC), a nonprofit association dedicated to the promotion and preservation of employer-sponsored benefit programs that facilitate employee choice and consumerism on a tax-advantaged basis. Ms. Dietel is currently involved with the association’s Government Relations and Interpretations Committee and is a member of the Technical Advisory Committee, diligently working to ensure ECFC is a vital force‒and essential voice‒in the legislative and regulatory debate shaping the future of employer-provided tax-advantaged benefit plans.

To her role as chief compliance officer at WageWorks, Inc., Ms. Dietel brings years of flexible benefits industry expertise and experience. She is the current vice president and an active board member of the Special Interest Group for IIAS Standards (SIGIS), which streamlines standards for the use of health care electronic payment systems in accordance with federal standards, and continues to serve on its List Review Working Group and Audit Committee. In addition, Ms. Dietel serves on the Board of the HSA Council of the American Bankers Association and is on the Policy Advisory Board of the American Benefits Council and active in the US Chamber of Commerce. She is also a frequent speaker at industry functions and is the only non-attorney to present at Employee Benefits Institute of America’s conferences.

Prior to joining WageWorks, Ms. Dietel was the founder and chief executive of Creative Benefits, Inc., a successful consumer-driven health care (CDHC) benefits administrator acquired by WageWorks in 2008. As Creative Benefits’ chief executive, she was responsible for the successful integration of the two companies’ people, products, and services. As WageWorks’ chief compliance officer, she helps the company navigate the maze of federal and state regulation and serves as a liaison between WageWorks and key industry groups and governing bodies. Before founding Creative Benefits, she held positions of responsibility at Prudential Insurance Company of America and the Wyatt Company (now Willis Towers Watson).

Ms. Dietel holds a bachelor’s in psychology from Bethel University (Minn.) and is an Advanced Certified Flexible Compensation Instructor (ACFCI) and COBRA administration specialist (CAS) through the Flexible Compensation Institute, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of ECFC.



J. Kevin A. McKechnie is Executive Director of the ABA’s HSA Council and a Senior Vice President at the American Bankers Association, representing the Council before Congress and the federal government.
Mr. McKechnie is a nationally recognized expert in insurance generally and health insurance in particular, and is the winner of the 2011 Public Policy Leadership Award from the Institute for Healthcare Consumerism.
Mr. McKechnie is also a principle in HSA Holdings, an organization of global healthcare financing experts, providing health care financing expertise to several governments around the world.
Mr. McKechnie joined ABA in 2001 after serving for 4 years as Government Relations Representative for the Affinity Services Division of Marsh & McLennan.
Previously, Mr. McKechnie served as Director of Government Relations for International Financial Services, a wealth management and insurance consulting firm located in Bethesda, Maryland. Prior to this assignment, Mr. McKechnie served as Legislative Assistant on the Congressional staff of former Representative William Dannemeyer of California. 
Prior to his appointment on Capitol Hill, Mr. McKechnie served as Director of Legislative Affairs for the Segermark Company, an association management firm.
Mr. McKechnie pursued graduate studies in American history at the American University in Washington, D.C. after receiving his BA in History and Political Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. Born in Madison Wisconsin, Mr. McKechnie grew up in Toronto and has lived in the Washington D.C. area for thirty years. 



A partner at Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas,Dean Rosen is one of Washington’s foremost experts on America’s complex health care system – and a master of both the politics and policies that shape it.

Dean has more than two decades of experience developing and advancing health policy initiatives on Capitol Hill and in the private sector. At Mehlman Castagnetti, he advises a wide range of clients, from leading businesses and trade associations to universities and not for-profit organizations. He has represented hospitals and health systems, physician specialty organizations, private health plans, clinical laboratories, biotechnology companies, pharmaceutical manufacturers, as well as national employers. He guides each as they seek to impact national health policy and navigate the transformational health system changes taking place in the aftermath of the Affordable Care Act.Prior to joining Mehlman Castagnetti, Dean held a series of high-level positions in both the private sector and government, including on key committees in both the United States Senate and House of Representatives. As the chief health care advisor to then- Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, M.D. (R-TN), a leading voice on national medical and health issues, Dean helped draft and navigate to final passage landmark legislation creating a Medicare prescription drug benefit, patient safety legislation, and laws in the wake of the September 11th and bioterrorism attacks in 2001 to ensure that local, state and national public health systems had new authorities and additional resources to respond to future threats.Dean’s policy, legal and management experience also ranges beyond Capitol Hill. He served as senior vice president of policy and general counsel for the Health Insurance Association of America(HIAA),and practiced law at Dow,Lohnes and Albertson in Washington, D.C.

Dean holds a J.D. from Syracuse University Law School, a Master’s Degree from Syracuse University S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, and a B.S. from Boston University. He is a member of the Board of Directors at the David A. Winston Health Policy Fellowship,and an Associate Professor at the George Washington University School of Public Health.


John Hickman is head of the Alston + Bird, LLP Health Benefits Practice where he leads five attorneys devoted exclusively to new health care reform issues under PPACA, HIPAA privacy, flexible benefits, and other health and welfare benefit issues. Hickman has been a pioneer in the consumer directed health care arena and has worked closely with health plans, financial institutions and employers as well as the IRS, Treasury, and DOL in developing guidance for tax-favored health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) and health savings accounts (HSAs). Hickman has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America (Woodward/White) and Who’s Who Legal in the employee benefits area. Hickman has lectured widely and published articles on HIPAA, ERISA litigation, cafeteria and health plan issues. He is co-author of the “Cafeteria Plans Manual,” “HIPAA Portability and Privacy” and “Consumer-Driven Health Care” (published by the Employee Benefits Institute of America). Hickman is head of the Technical Advisory Committee and is on the board of the Employers Council on Flexible Compensation (ECFC). Hickman is also an adjunct professor of law at Emory University School of Law.


Nicky Brown is the Vice President, Compliance Services at WageWorks. Nicky has more than 16 years of experience in flexible benefits, compliance, consulting and management. In her previous role as the Assistant Vice President of Shared Services at CONEXIS, she had oversight of compliance, information security, vendor management, and contract administration.


Ms. Brown attended the University of Tulsa and is an Advanced Certified Flexible Compensation Instructor (ACFCI) and COBRA administration specialist (CAS) through the Flexible Compensation Institute, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of ECFC. She is also a Certified Compliance and Ethics Professional (CCEP) through the Society of Corporate Compliance Certification Board. She currently serves on the board of the Special Interest Group for IIAS Standards (SIGIS).


Sage Eastman is a senior Republican strategist with two decades of policy, political and government experience. While as steeped in political campaigns as he is in congressional policy debates, Eastman is most known for his close relationships and being widely respected on both sides of the aisle and both sides of Capitol Hill.Having spent six years as a senior counselor to the Ways and Means Committee and its Members – serving variously as Senior Advisor, Deputy Staff Director and Director of Strategy – there isn’t a tax,health or trade battle that Eastman hasn’t worked. During his tenure on the Hill, Eastman was as likely to be found huddled on the House floor with senior House Republican leadership staff as he was working to bring about an unprecedented era of cooperation between the Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce committees.Eastman was a key driver behind the Ways and Means Committee’s extensive work to craft the most comprehensive re-write of the taxcode since 1986,quarterbacking the effort to solicit and incorporate input from stakeholders and thought leaders.


William F. Sweetnamis the ECFC Legislative & Technical Director. Prior to joining ECFC, he was principal at the Groom Law Group, the nation’s largest employee benefits specialty law firm.Before joining Groom in 2005, he was the benefits tax counsel in the Office of Tax Policy at the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Prior to that, Sweetnam was tax counsel on the Majority Staff of the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance, under the chairmanship of Senator William Roth of Delaware. He is a graduate of Rutgers University (N.J.) and of Fordham University School of Law (N.Y.). 



Ashley Gillihan is counsel in the Atlanta office of Alston & Bird, LLP, and a member of the firm’s Employee Benefits and ERISA Litigation Groups. Gillihan focuses his practice exclusively on health and welfare employee benefit compliance and litigation issues for employers, health plan administrators, and other health and welfare benefit plan service providers. He also has extensive experience assisting financial institutions and insurance companies who serve as health savings account trustees or custodians.


Gillihan serves as a faculty member and/or technical advisor for several health and welfare benefit plan focused organizations. He is a member of the ECFC Technical Advisory Group and the board of editors for the Benefits and Compensation Law Alert published by M. Lee Smith Publishers. He is a faculty member for the Institute for Applied Management and Law, and he was recently named a contributing author for the Flexible Benefits Answer Book published by Aspen Publishers.