Congressional Update - Proposed Committee on Healthcare in U.S. House of Representatives

    This week, Republicans in the House of Representatives will meet to consider the rules of the House Republican Conference for the 113th Congress. One of the amendments to the Conference rules proposes to create a new standing Committee on Health Care that would consolidate all healthcare jurisdiction into a single committee. Under the proposed amendment, Medicare, Medicaid, “Obamacare”, and potentially a myriad of other health-related issues including veterans health, Indian health, biomedical research, public health, the Food and Drug Administration, National Institute of Health, and any other health related issues would be overseen by this new committee.

    House Republicans supporting the creation of the new Committee on Health Care, led by Congressman Doc Hastings (R-WA), believe that consolidating health care jurisdiction will create a more effective forum for reforming Medicare and overseeing the implementation of Obamacare. The amendment’s proponents argue that past efforts to repeal Obamacare have been referred to eight separate committees for consideration and that this underscores the inefficiencies created by the respective House committees’ current health care jurisdiction. Supporters contend that Medicare and Medicaid constitute 21 percent of the federal budget, that healthcare is nearly one-fifth the nation’s GDP, and that healthcare’s complex nature and growing importance to an aging American population is important enough to warrant its own committee.

    Current House standing committees most directly impacted by the proposed amendment will be Energy & Commerce, chaired by Congressman Fred Upton (R-MI), which has general healthcare jurisdiction, and Ways & Means, chaired by Congressman Dave Camp (R-MI), which has jurisdiction over Medicare. The change would be significant in that the House has not added a new standing committee since 2005 when the Select Committee on Homeland Security was elevated to a standing committee.

    Speculation is that House Republicans are interested in drafting Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) to chair the new Committee on Health Care, arguing that it would serve as an effective platform for the Congressman to continue his efforts to reform Medicare and scrutinize the implementation of Obamacare. Furthermore, Congressman Ryan, barring a waiver from the Speaker, is term limited under House rules in his post as Budget Committee chairman -- which could serve as an incentive for him to throw his support behind the creation of the new committee and accept its chairmanship.

    The amendment on creating a new standing Committee on Healthcare will come up for a vote on Thursday afternoon before the Republican conference. Even if the amendment to create the new Committee on Health Care is defeated, there is still potential for the committee to be created when the House Rules package comes up for a vote on January 9, 2013. While this amendment will encounter opposition from some within the Republican caucus, K Street, and other inside the beltway interests, it appears the amendment has garnered significant support within the rank and file of the Republican caucus and that it does have a very real chance of being adopted.

    Edwards Wildman will continue to monitor and report on developments from Washington, DC. Specific questions relating to the Committee on Health Care can be directed to David Szabo, Healthcare Partner at dszabo@edwardswildman.com.

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