Ready for the next stage
While some government officials might dream of their retirement days to be filled with globe-trotting, for Sheila Lambowitz, travel couldn't wait.The former head of the federal government's nursing home regulatory division, she has traveled extensively around Europe and to New York City to see Broadway shows, (her recent favorite being “Rock of Ages” ).
“I'm not a hiking or camping person, but if you put me down in the city, I can organize my days to hit the museums and the shows,” she says. “If I'm there for seven days, I plan at least six shows.”
When she retired last fall from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, she caught up on some home improvement projects. That's in Columbia, MD, where she lives with two beloved cats, Beau and G.G. But never content to stay home for long, Lambowitz recently became a part-time consultant and director of Medicare and Medicaid Innovation for Zimmet Healthcare Services. She also has taken up golf lessons for the first time in a decade, and is taking an art course.
Such willingness to explore has served Lambowitz well through her career, which began in a Connecticut Blue Cross office as a customer service correspondent in 1969.
“I had the ‘S's,' so I had correspondence from every nun in Connecticut, who were wondering whether they were old enough to file for Medicare. I had to learn what to say,” she remembers.
The oldest of two and a native of Flatbush, NY, Lambowitz attended Brooklyn College and moved around the country with her then-husband, who was doing post-doctoral research. She became the point person for setting up a long-term care case mix system in Ohio, implementing a RUG system in 1993. She also became a charter member of the Ohio hospice association.
“These are the kinds of programs that I like, when you can build something that makes life better for segments of people,” Lambowitz says.
She arrived in Washington in 2000 at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and strove to put a human face on the agency.
“There's a misconception that people don't care, or that people are focused on paper compliance, or that they don't understand the problems of the industry,” she says. “One of the things that helped are the Open Door Forums. I got calls and emails from people who were grateful that someone would listen to them.”
Coworkers at CMS often became friends, and Lambowitz still participates in the agency's book club, tackling tomes such as the “Emperor of All Maladies.” She also belongs to a philosophy book club, where they read books such as “The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives.”
This intellectual joie de vivre is what led long-time CMS colleague Lori Anderson to describe Lambowitz as creative and brilliant.
“She's always been able to see the whole picture,” Anderson says. “She was very much an advocate for ensuring the integrity of Medicare benefits.”
Does Lambowitz think she herself will go live in a long-term care facility? Not yet.
“At this point,” the 64-year-old says, “I can do everything I need to do.”
Finishes bachelor's degree at Brooklyn College, starts at Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Connecticut
Starts at Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Missouri as manager, new product development
Completes master's in business administration at St. Louis University, leads Medicare medical review and audit department
Named chief of hospital rates and audits at Ohio Department of Human Services
Organizes annual National Case Mix Reimbursement and Quality Assurance Conference
Becomes deputy director of the division of institutional post-acute care, Center for Medicare Management, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
Retires as director of the division of institutional post-acute care at CMS