Business & Finance Forum


Melissa Harris


Bio: Melissa Harris has been with CMS since the summer of 1995, and is currently the Deputy Director for the Disabled and Elderly Health Programs Group (DEHPG). Prior to this role, Melissa was a Senior Policy Advisor in DEHPG, developing and implementing a myriad of policies advancing home and community-based services as an alternative to institutional placement.

Before joining the Office of the Group Director, she was the Director of the Division of Benefits and Coverage from 2012 to 2015, in which she was responsible for overseeing implementation of most Medicaid benefits, including benefits provided to individuals in the Medicaid expansion population, and the establishment of national benefit policy.

Linnea Larson

Minnesota Department of Health

Bio: Linnea Larson, MPH is an epidemiologist in the COVID-19 section of the Minnesota Department of Health. She earned her MPH in Epidemiology from the University of Minnesota, and she has supported the COVID-19 response since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020. Her work has included COVID-19 mortality tracking and healthcare personnel data monitoring and analysis. Currently, she focuses on COVID-19 hospitalization surveillance.

Phil Griffin

Ewald Consulting

Bio: Phil Griffin began his career as a Staff Assistant during the first term of Minnesota Governor Rudy Perpich. He spent the next four years as staff for the House Higher Education Division and the House Health and Welfare Committee before taking a position lob-bying for the Minnesota Medical Association. Phil was then hired by Physicians Health Plan (PHP) where he worked for the health plan, its management company UnitedHealthcare and PHP’s successor Medica. From 1993 to 2001 Phil was Vice President of Public Policy for PreferredOne. As the principal and owner of Griffin Government Consulting Phil represented American’s Health Insurance Plans, Johnson & Johnson, Minnesota Association of Community Health Centers, March of Dimes and others for 18 years. In January of 2019 Phil brought his current clients to Ewald Consulting where he joined the Government Relations Group. Phil is a graduate of Hamline University and William Mitchell College of Law.


Dr. Ron Cox

Midwest Workforce Strategies

Bio: Ron grew up in Dubuque, Iowa watching the Apollo missions to the moon and then headed off to Iowa State University where he received a B.S. and Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering.

 His early career included work designing airfoils and fighter aircraft in the aerospace industry. He also spent time as an aerospace engineering professor and as a C-level executive for a manufacturer of cooling towers. Most recently he served as assistant vice president of operations for extension, associate dean of corporate engagement for the College of Engineering, and director of a business outreach center at Iowa State.

 Ron currently runs Midwest Workforce Strategies, a consulting company that helps for-profit and not-for-profit organizations understand Midwest workforce challenges and then design plans to grow their labor force.

Flower Yang


Bio: Flower Yang is a homecare provider trainer in the Medicaid Payments and Provider Services division of the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS). She monitors Minnesota Health Care Programs (MHCP) information pertaining to home and community-based service providers so she can educate providers and others about MHCP coverages, policies, billing procedures and related applications. Her work includes monthly MHCP training for enrolled home and community-based service waivers and Alternative Care program providers. This training navigates through the MHCP provider webpages and manuals and includes billing training through MN–ITS.

Flower worked as a biller with numerous home and community-based service providers throughout the state of Minnesota for eight years before joining DHS. Her experience as a biller kept her well-informed on current MHCP policies and procedures for billing waiver services.

She enjoys cooking and spending time with her family, especially building forts with her son.  


David Freeman

Minnesota Department of Human Services

Bio: David completed his bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in religious studies in 2015. David started with DHS in April 2022 as a provider trainer specializing in the Minnesota Provider Screening and Enrollment (MPSE) portal. His professional career has included various roles and agencies in the Health and Human Services industry, including teaching independent living skills to individuals diagnosed with brain injuries, supervising community residential settings, and case management services in the Waiver Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) program. David love to travel, especially to historical locations, and his favorite thing to do is to try new cuisine in my travels and then learn how to make them when he gets home.


Alexandra Bolinske

Minnesota Department of Human Services

Bio:  Alexandra (Alex) has a bachelor’s degree in Sociology with an emphasis in Family, Health, and Aging as well as Ethnic Studies - specifically involving labor movements. Alex also has 15 years of service with the State of Minnesota, working in various departments including the Social Security Administration, MN State Patrol, and currently the Department of Human Services (DHS). She was previously the supervisor for both the Waiver Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) team, as well as the Individual Direct Support Workers (DSW) team. Alex is currently the supervisor for both the Home Care and the Electronic Document Management Services (EDMS) teams. She also an eight year member of the volunteer program for MN Adult and Teen Challenge. Alex is passionate about the work that I do for my community as well as at DHS and stand by our mission statement of “The Minnesota Department of Human Services, working with many others, helps people meet their basic needs so they can live in dignity and achieve their highest potential.”


Jamie Viger


Bio: Jamie has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Minnesota in 2015, with a focus in Cultural Psychology. She has worked for the State of Minnesota for 15 years, beginning with our Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, the Department of Public Safety, and the remaining 10 years with the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) specializing in provider relations regarding enrollment and claim payments. Jamie enjoys her work immensely and look forward to solving the issues faced by both the members of our programs as well as our providers. In her free time, Jamie likes to work in her gardens and starting DIY projects that may or may not ever get finished.