Health Legislation 2007-2008: What’s Possible?

Suddenly, Capitol Hill is talking about health issues again. Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promises that Democrats will roll back the prohibition against the federal government negotiating drug prices on behalf of Medicare beneficiaries. (A Kaiser Family Foundation poll released today found broad bipartisan support for this idea.) Incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says one of his three top priorities will be more funding for stem cell research. Others want to revisit the importation of prescription drugs from Canada. Additionally, the 110th Congress will consider whether to continue the State Children’s Health Insurance Program in its present form.

The election results, and the launch of the 2008 presidential season, mean a wealth of story ideas for reporters in all media. For instance: Who will be the key players in health care on the Hill for the next two years? Given the election outcome, will we see a dramatic new emphasis on health issues, such as a federal mandate that everyone in the U.S. must have health coverage (a la Massachusetts)? Or should we expect more modest steps toward reform? What’s in store for prescription drug reimportation and stem cell research? What about efforts to help small businesses provide health coverage to their employees? How important will health issues be in the 2008 presidential race?

To help address these and related questions, the Alliance for Health Reform and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation sponsored a December 13 luncheon briefing for reporters and others in the media. Panelists were Hill insiders well versed in getting health legislation done: Bridgett Taylor, Democratic staff of the House Energy and Commerce Committee; Mark Hayes, Republican health policy director for the Senate Finance Committee; and Kate Leone, health policy advisor to Sen. Reid. Ed Howard, executive vice president of the Alliance, moderated the discussion.


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