In the aftermath of their midterm elections sweep, Democrats who once held positions of power in the healthcare arena will be reclaiming the chairmanships of influential healthcare panels in the House and Senate.
Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.), an architect of the Medicare Part D prescription-drug bill and a force behind the healthcare information technology bill H.R. 4751, will be handing over chairmanship of the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee to the outspoken Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), after losing her bid for a 13th consecutive term in the House to Democratic challenger Chris Murphy. On the House Energy and Commerce panel, Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) is slated to take over from Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) the chairmanship he lost years ago when the Republicans took over the Congress.
It's also expected that Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) could make a run at the chair of the committee's panel on health, succeeding Rep. Nathan Deal (R-Ga.), who was re-elected. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who won his bid in the Senate, was the former ranking member of that panel.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who currently chairs the Senate Finance Committee, will trade places with former ranking member Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.). On the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions panel, former ranking member Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) will switch with Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.).
GOP incumbents who lost their seats include Rep. E. Clay Shaw Jr. (R-Fla.), who pushed for medical malpractice reform and broadening insurance coverage options, and Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), a member of the Senate Finance healthcare panel who lost to Robert Casey Jr., after serving in the Senate for 12 years.
Richard Pollack, an executive vice president at the American Hospital Association, said that the AHA is committed to working with the new committee chairs -- whoever they might be -- and expects a smooth transition from one party to the next.
Politicos such as Dingell, Kennedy, Rangel and Stark "are all known quantities to us," he said.
Specialty hospital representatives are less certain of the new leadership. What impact the new committee chairs will have on hospital policy is still unclear, said Randy Fenninger, the Washington lobbyist for Physician Hospitals of America, formerly the American Surgical Hospital Association. Stark has listed specialty hospitals as an oversight agenda item, "But I don't think that's his No. 1 target. Obviously, we prefer not to be oversighted anymore," Fenninger said.
-- with Matthew DoBias
This article initially appeared in the Nov. 13 edition of Modern Healthcare magazine.