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House Dems In New Seats Of Power Will Steer Health Policy, Attack Drug Prices

For the primary time since passing the Affordable Care Act, Democrats will quickly management the House of Representatives and its highly effective well being committees. But Republicans’ tightened grip on the Senate means these hoping for an additional spherical of dramatic, progressive reforms could also be disillusioned.

Empowered by voters outraged over Republican makes an attempt to chip away on the regulation’s protections for the sick, Democrats owe a lot of their midterm takeback to well being care points. And Democratic leaders say they’re able to get again to work, this time coaching their sights on skyrocketing drug costs, amongst different coverage conundrums, with a majority of House votes and a slate of latest committee chairmanships in hand.

In just a few weeks, House Democrats will meet to elect their leaders, together with a number of committee chairs who can be chargeable for the nation’s well being care coverage and spending within the coming years. Hill denizens count on these at present serving as the highest Democrat on most House committees to ascend to the chairmanships, with few if any members mounting critical challenges.

Those basking in a post-“blue wave” glow would do properly to mood their expectations, recalling that the Republican-controlled House had already voted 54 times to unravel some or all the Affordable Care Act by its fourth birthday in 2014. In most circumstances, Democrats within the Senate and White House stopped these efforts of their tracks.

With the Senate (and the presidency) remaining underneath Republican management and even fewer reasonable Republicans left within the House after this election, Democrats will battle to maneuver laws with out Republican assist. What they’ll do is maintain hearings, launch investigations and usually unnerve the pharmaceutical trade, amongst different seemingly adversaries.

And there’s an opportunity they may strike a take care of President Donald Trump, whose administration is shifting to crack down on drug corporations.

Who are the members more than likely to wield the gavels? And what’s going to they do with that energy? Here’s a have a look at among the main committees that affect well being coverage — and the individuals who could lead them.

The Committee on Energy and Commerce: Rep. Frank Pallone, New Jersey

Pallone, who has served within the House for 30 years, turned the highest Democrat on this influential committee in 2015. Should he grow to be chairman, he can be chargeable for the broadest well being portfolio within the House, which incorporates Medicaid, public well being, insurance coverage and drug security. This is the committee that marked up the Affordable Care Act in 2009 (when Pallone chaired the well being subcommittee) and the House Republican repeal effort in 2017.

Under the Trump administration, Pallone has touted his stewardship of bipartisan laws reauthorizing the fees charged to manufacturers to evaluate the protection of prescribed drugs and medical units. He has additionally referred to as for hearings on “mega-mergers” like the proposed merger between CVS and Aetna and labored with different Democrats to counter Republican attempts to undermine the Affordable Care Act.

Unsurprisingly, his affect over well being care points has attracted some huge cash from pharmaceutical corporations, well being professionals, HMOs and different trade gamers. By mid-October, Pallone had obtained greater than $945,000 in marketing campaign contributions from  the well being sector for this election, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. According to a KHN analysis, almost $170,000 got here from political motion committees related to pharmaceutical corporations.

The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform: Rep. Elijah Cummings, Maryland 

Cummings might show the pharmaceutical trade’s largest headache come subsequent 12 months. Having served because the committee’s rating member since 2011 — a put up that lacks the chairman’s subpoena energy — he has been champing on the bit to carry drugmakers accountable.

Shortly after Trump’s inauguration, Cummings approached him about working collectively to decrease the price of prescribed drugs (to no immediate avail), and he has partnered with other lawmakers to demand info from pharmaceutical corporations about their drug pricing methods. Previewing what a Cummings-led committee may seem like, he has even launched his own investigations into drug prices, releasing reports together with his findings.

Drugmakers have wasted few marketing campaign contributions on Cummings: He has obtained simply $1,000 from their PACs this election, in accordance with data analysis by KHN.

In a press release to Kaiser Health News, Cummings stated Democrats would conduct “credible, responsible oversight” of the Trump administration, including: “For healthcare, that means investigating skyrocketing prescription drug prices, actions that would threaten protections for people with preexisting health conditions, and efforts to undermine the Medicaid program.” 

The Committee on Ways and Means: Rep. Richard Neal, Massachusetts

Ways and Means oversees Medicare and influences well being coverage by its jurisdiction over taxes. Though Neal turned the highest Democrat on this committee in 2017, he has been concerned in well being care for much longer, having performed a component within the crafting of each the Affordable Care Act and the failed reform effort underneath the Clinton administration in 1993.

Facing a main challenger who touted her assist for “Medicare-for-all” in his deep-blue district, Neal denied that he opposes the progressive single-payer proposal. But he additionally stated Democrats ought to concentrate on shoring up the Affordable Care Act, significantly its protections for these with preexisting circumstances and caps on out-of-pocket bills. (He won handily.)

The well being sector was by far one of many high contributors to Neal’s re-election marketing campaign this 12 months, giving greater than $765,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Neal’s district consists of the headquarters of a number of well being insurers and different medical corporations, which makes him a first-rate goal for marketing campaign contributions.

The Committee on Appropriations: Rep. Nita Lowey, New York

If chosen, Lowey would grow to be the primary girl to chair the highly effective House Committee on Appropriations, holding the nation’s purse strings.

Like Neal and Pallone, Lowey was first elected to Congress in 1988, and she or he turned the committee’s high Democrat in 2013. She has been a devoted and efficient advocate for investing in biomedical analysis into main illnesses like diabetes and Alzheimer’s, in addition to public well being applications like pandemic preparedness.

She has additionally lengthy championed ladies’s well being points, proving a vocal critic of the Trump administration’s proposed gag rule on Title X funding, amongst different insurance policies. Watch for her to proceed to push again on the administration’s efforts to limit entry to abortion rights.

And on the Senate facet, the Committee on Finance: Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa?

The rumor mill favors Grassley, the Republican who has served most lately because the chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, to interchange retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

Senate Republican leaders have signaled that entitlement applications like Medicare and Medicaid might use trimming and, with Republicans rising from the midterms with a barely greater majority, this committee might have its arms full.

Hatch proved a pal to the pharmaceutical trade, and his conflict chest mirrored that, taking in additional than $850,000 in marketing campaign contributions from drugmaker PACs up to now decade alone, according to a Kaiser Health News analysis. But Grassley has taken a extra adversarial method to the trade, working with a Democratic colleague last summer to stress drug corporations to listing their costs in direct-to-consumer advertisements, as an illustration.

Grassley held the chairmanship from 2003 to 2006, leaving him two extra years on the high, ought to he need it. (Senate Republican chairs could serve for under six years.) But he may select to remain on as head of the Judiciary Committee, through which case the subsequent chairman often is the next-most-senior Republican: Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho.

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