The healthcare agenda of the Republican-led 104th Congress will be set largely by the chairs of eight key committees in the House and Senate.
Here are brief sketches of the Republicans considered most likely to become chairs of committees affecting healthcare:
Bob Packwood, Finance Committee: Mr. Packwood, 62, of Oregon is considered a moderate. He has been involved in healthcare reform measures for many years. When the Clinton administration introduced its reform plan, Mr. Packwood at first was conciliatory. At one point, he went so far as to say he was not necessarily against employer mandates.
However, as the debate wore on, Mr. Packwood became noticeably more opposed to sweeping healthcare reform. Late in the congressional session, he and Senate Minority Leader Robert Dole (R-Kan.) introduced their own plan to improve healthcare, which included insurance reforms, strong malpractice measures and a modest expansion of benefits.
That plan may be a blueprint for committee action next year, although Mr. Dole said recently he did not want to expand benefits and "create any entitlements."
Provider group representatives say Mr. Packwood, who is serving his fifth term, is concerned about the effect Medicare cuts would have on the delivery system.
"He is definitely not a slash-and-burn type; he understands how (Medicare) cuts affect providers," said one lobbyist, who asked not to be identified.
Nancy Landon Kassebaum, Labor and Human Resources: The Kansan has been a longtime advocate of healthcare reform. She introduced her own plan in 1992 that included insurance reforms, new benefits for women and children, and malpractice reform.
"Her plan will be much more liberal than the Republican leadership would like," said James Scott, president of the American Healthcare Systems Institute.
The 62-year-old Ms. Kassebaum, who is in her third Senate term, has always had a collegial relationship with current Chairman Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.). When Mr. Kennedy passed his version of the Clinton plan earlier this year, Ms. Kassebaum angered some conservatives, who thought she did not take a hard enough stance against the plan.
Orrin G. Hatch, Judiciary Committee: Mr. Hatch, 60, of Utah is a staunch advocate of tort reform and is expected to make it one of his committee's priorities. He is also strongly free-market-oriented.
Mr. Hatch, who also serves on the Finance and Labor and Human Resources committees, is in his third term and will be up for re-election in 1996.
"He will be much more amenable to calling on the (Federal Trade Commission) and the Justice Department to ease antitrust enforcement and allow the marketplace to work," said Frederick Graefe, a lawyer with the Washington firm of Baker & Hostetler.
James Jeffords, Veterans Affairs Committee: The Vermont senator is the most junior Republican on the Veterans Affairs Committee. He would vault to chairman if the four more senior Republicans on the committee take leadership positions or other committee chairmanships as expected.
Veterans groups view Mr. Jeffords, 60, as an advocate for the 171-hospital Department of Veterans Affairs system. A first-term senator, he is known as one of the Senate's most liberal Republicans and, notably, the only Republican supporter of President Clinton's healthcare plan.
But Mr. Jeffords' ascent could be spoiled. Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming, the current minority whip and third-ranking Republican on the Veterans Affairs Committee, is being challenged in his run for majority whip by Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.). If Mr. Simpson were to lose, he could take over as chairman of Veterans Affairs.
Veterans groups fear such a power shift, as Mr. Simpson has frequently criticized them, calling them "professional fund-raising veterans."
If Mr. Simpson becomes chairman, "it certainly would not be something we would be looking forward to," said one veterans group representative.
Bill Archer, Ways and Means Committee: In his first press conference after the elections, the 66-year-old Texan said he would not support reductions in Social Security or Medicare benefits, a move designed to comfort seniors and provider groups. He added that he did not consider healthcare reform a priority item and would instead focus on the items in the Republican "Contract with America."
Mr. Archer, who is completing his 12th term in Congress, supported the incremental plan introduced earlier this year by retiring Minority Leader Robert Michel (R-Ill.).
"He's tough, that's for sure," said one lobbyist. "He never was really engaged in healthcare reform; he kind of slipped in and out of the debate."
Mr. Archer is viewed as a conservative deficit hawk.
Thomas Bliley Jr., Energy and Commerce Committee: The former ranking minority member of the health subcommittee, Mr. Bliley, 62, of Virginia has made one thing clear: The anti-tobacco hearings led by committee Democrats earlier this year will come to an end.
During Energy and Commerce's deliberations on the Clinton reform plan, Mr. Bliley was one of the sharpest and most consistent critics of the plan.
Provider group representatives say Mr. Bliley, who is in his seventh term in Congress, is unlikely to stray far from the plans of the House Republican leadership, and would likely push a reform plan only if the leadership makes it part of its agenda.
Henry Hyde, Judiciary Committee: Mr. Hyde, 70, of Illinois is one of the fiercest anti-abortion members in Congress. Like Mr. Hatch, his counterpart in the Senate, Mr. Hyde is a supporter of tort reform and antitrust relief.
However, as part of the Republican plan to reform Congress, the responsibility for action on malpractice reform may be transferred from the Judiciary Committee to Energy and Commerce, which may be renamed Health and Commerce.
A member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Mr. Hyde is in his 10th term in Congress.
Bob Stump, Veterans Affairs Committee: Mr. Stump of Arizona will take the reins of a committee known for its bipartisanship. The transfer of the chairmanship from Rep. G.V. "Sonny" Montgomery (D-Miss.) will be more like a trade between friends.
Veterans group representatives said Messrs. Stump and Montgomery frequently eat breakfast together privately and try to eliminate partisan animosity publicly. The veterans' groups expect that bipartisanship to continue in the new Republican-controlled House.
Mr. Stump, 67, a World War II veteran, in the past has sponsored legislation providing long-term care for veterans and reforming VA healthcare eligibility rules.
A nine-term member of Congress, Mr. Stump has also served on the House Armed Services Committee.
"I think he's got a really deep understanding of what veterans' problems are," said Frank Buxton, deputy director of veterans affairs and rehabilitation for the American Legion.