Now that President-Elect Joe Biden has been declared the winner of the election, he is making the transition from campaigning on healthcare issues to governing.
It remains unclear how much Biden will be able to accomplish in Congress, as control of the Senate will come down to two runoff elections in Georgia that will be held in January. Still, the likely change in executive branch will have big implications for the healthcare industry.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the Supreme Court's eventual ruling on the Affordable Care Act will also be major factors. Experts said Biden would tackle the virus straight away with a renewed emphasis on public health measures aimed at trying to stop its spread. While the federal government would continue to work on vaccines and therapies, Biden probably wouldn't make them the focus of his messaging, said Dean Rosen, a partner at lobbying firm Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas. He expects the federal government to take a more active role in responding to the pandemic and to rely less on states to manage it.
The decisions that the Biden transition team makes in the coming days will set the course for his near-term plans to address the COVID-19 pandemic and set priorities for his longer-term healthcare policy agenda.
Biden in the coming weeks will make important decisions about who he wants to hold key healthcare-related positions in his administration.
It's unclear how much latitude Biden will have to get nominees approved by the Senate, as Democrats may not hold the majority. Regardless, a few frontrunners have emerged for top healthcare posts.
Dr. Vivek Murthy, surgeon general during the Obama administration, is seen as a top candidate for posts either at HHS or potentially the CDC. New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has also been floated as a potential HHS secretary, as she formerly headed New Mexico's health department.
Some other individuals who could claim administration slots include Obama White House aide and Affordable Care Act architect Dr. Zeke Emanuel, North Carolina health department head Dr. Mandy Cohen, former Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, former Obama HHS preparedness official Dr. Nicole Lurie, and Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.).
Biden's team would also try to depoliticize federal agencies like the Food and Drug Administration and empower the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to lead the public health response rather than depend on a COVID-19 czar to lead the charge, Rosen said, adding, that there will be less "second-guessing of the public health career officials."
Some expect Greg Simon, who serves as the president of the Biden Cancer Initiative, could be tapped to head the National Cancer Institute or have some role as a public face of a renewed cancer moonshot that Biden has promised to pursue.
Analysts say more funding for cancer research could be doable even with a Republican Congress. Revamping the Oncology Care Model, protocols, reimbursement modalities and payment reform for outpatient drugs could come into play.