Healthcare Business News

Outliers: The Stark era ending in Congress

By Modern Healthcare
Posted: November 17, 2012 - 12:01 am ET

One of the casualties from this month's congressional elections is a familiar face in the healthcare industry: Rep. Pete Stark, the California Democrat who currently serves as the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee's ranking member and is widely known for the three-part physician self-referral law that bears his name.

A longtime champion of a single-payer healthcare system, Stark—who has served in the U.S. House of Representatives in the 8th, 9th and currently 13th District of California since 1973—was beaten by Eric Swalwell, a fellow Democrat, to represent the Golden State's 15th District. In the healthcare industry, Stark's influence largely stems from his work drafting legislation that governs physician self-referral in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

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From 2007 to 2010, Stark served as the subcommittee's chairman. His departure now leaves open the health subcommittee ranking-member spot on the hugely influential panel that makes tax law.

Former Rep. Jim Slattery (D-Kan.) served in Congress from 1983-95 and said recent reapportionment in California turned many congressional seats upside down this year. “A lot of these folks found themselves running in districts they were not familiar with,” said Slattery, now a partner at the Washington law firm of Wiley Rein. That list includes Stark, who already experienced redistricting twice before.

Slattery speculated that Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), a psychiatrist who represents the state's 7th District, is a likely candidate for the vacant ranking member spot on the health subcommittee.

“Pete was a strong proponent of a single-payer national health insurance plan,” Slattery said. “I think whoever succeeds him will probably be less ideologically committed to a single-payer plan than Pete Stark.”

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