Longtime Congressman Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., is anticipated next month to take control of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, obtaining the Medicare-for-All proponent center located in one of the nation’s most broadly influential health policy discussions.
The expected appointment comes after the current committee chair Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., reported that she was stepping down to lead the Senate Committee on Appropriations. Sanders has stood on the Senate’s Health, Labor, Education, and Pensions Committee, or HELP, since 2007. Still, the chance to lead the committee will give Sanders wobble on some of his most prominent healthcare policy assignments.
High healthcare expenses — including prescription drugs like insulin —nursing teaching, and elder care are issues Sanders anticipates concentrating on, calling the national healthcare system dysfunctional, unjustifiable and disgraceful in a January 1 video.
“We are residing in a country today where drug companies are making huge gains while people split their life-saving medicines in half because they cannot afford them,” the senator expressed in the video made public.
Congress has lately begun targeting the pharmaceutical industry and high prescription drug prices, with the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act in August presenting Medicare the historical power to negotiate some pharmaceutical drug costs starting in 2026 and check Medicare Part D out-of-pocket expenses in 2025.
Nevertheless, Sanders called the initial negotiation powers extremely vulnerable and “going nowhere near as far as they should to take on the acquisitiveness of the pharmaceutical industry whose actions are word-for-word killing Americans” during an August address in the Senate.
Medicine and other corporate healthcare executives may come under fire underneath the HELP committee as a result due to unilateral subpoena authority that would now grant several Senate committees the capacity to compel individuals to testify in Congress, with Sanders pledging “a lot” of subpoena hearings in the New Year video.
Although, other senators have begun firing warning shots at corporate leaders in anticipation of potential subpoenas. In the beginning of December, Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden, D-Ore., sent a note to the CEO of Amgen about the pharmaceutical business’s tax conventions.
“The American public merits a full understanding of the extent to which U.S. pharmaceutical enterprises have exploited the shortcoming in international tax law,” the letter said.
Lobbyists have voiced wariness regarding the new HELP committee leadership, with several speaking Politico that a Sanders-led HELP committee could guide to a slowdown of corporate healthcare lobbying and a case for pharmaceutical companies to push back on recent modifications to drug discount schedules.
“This will not be traded as usual for K Street, and it will be harder for companies to get in and make a point.” Michaeleen Crowell, a retired Sanders chief of staff and lobbyist with S-3 Group, informed Politico.
But his latest role as chairman of the HELP committee will also require Sanders to operate across the political side under a divided government in a section with only a slight majority. Alongside, a new chairman, the HELP panel will add Sanders’ counterpart in the panel— incoming hierarchy member Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La.
Cassidy and Sanders have a past of working on bipartisan plans, although the two senators have little unpretentious experience working together.
Healthcare institutions like the American Hospital Association congratulated Sanders on his assignment.
“We look ahead to working with him, Ranking Member Cassidy, and the entire panel to advance policies that advance health for patients and residents,” stated Aimee Kuhlman, vice president of government relations at the AHA, in a message to Healthcare Dive.
In complement to subpoenas and policy potential, Sanders also announced his intent to take the HELP committee “on the road” to request input from Americans negotiating healthcare problems.
“I’m optimistic that there are some areas where we can find a common base and make some real progress with some republicans and traditional democrats,” Sanders expressed in his January 1 video, “If we can’t pass these very significant issues today, well, we are going to lay the groundwork for accomplishing it tomorrow and into the future.”