The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has shined a bright spotlight on both the good and the bad of our nation’s health care system and public health infrastructure. It is our hope that after the promise of the vaccine has been realized, Congress will choose to legislate based on the lessons learned from the current crisis with renewed bipartisanship. Through our nearly 300 hours of in-depth profile research, three key issues emerged that had broad bipartisan interest.
Health care issues typically reach a tipping point in Congress when they are urgent, vital and able to be achieved reasonably. Telehealth, for example, was recognized for years as an important and doable practice but was never particularly urgent for the American people. After spending nearly three decades in rhetorical popularity, it only took COVID-19 two weeks to create the necessary inertia to instigate huge telehealth policy changes. Policymakers and regulators were forced to make quick adjustments, even in highly regulated sectors such as opioid use disorder.
Will the ascension of telehealth as a preferred care model be permanent? There is certainly bipartisan support among freshman members for not only continuing the temporary changes, but also further expanding the practice. Support is particularly strong among members from rural districts and members focused on health equity; these groups believe telehealth can help alleviate structural health care barriers like transportation and struggles with inflexible work schedules.
Freshmen on both sides of the aisle have expressed support for improving access to mental health care services. As Americans continue to face COVID-19’s devastating mental health impacts, the concurrent opioid crisis and the rising prevalence of suicide, policy to address these intertwined issues has never been more important.
Thanks to the great work of the mental health advocacy community—including the nearly 100 mental health and addiction groups who joined our Mental Health for US campaign—viable solutions have been proposed and debated on the national stage. Many advocates are hopeful that the new Congress will bring renewed opportunities for mental health and addiction policy, including action on suicide prevention, mental health parity, telehealth expansion, crisis response teams, diversion programs and drug courts.
“Transparency” was a buzzword that kept cropping up from both Republicans and Democrats in our profile research. Some members mentioned it in the context of hot-button issues like drug pricing, PBMs and surprise medical billing, while others brought it up in the context of hospital/provider pricing and insurance rebates.
Republicans most often mentioned transparency as a vital component to maintaining a functional, free market in health care. They often praised President Trump’s Executive Order son price and quality transparency, which is still being challenged in the courts and could be easily modified or shelved by President-elect Biden. Regardless of the EO’s fate, transparency will no doubt remain a pressing health policy issue for the incoming Congress and Administration.
Get access to all of the profiles, as well as insights and analysis, in both database and e-book form FREE:
The 117th Congress’ Freshman Class includes 28 women (over 40% of the class), boasting the largest class of woman Republicans in history. While we anticipated tracking candidate positions on abortion, we were pleasantly surprised that so many of the candidates, both men and women, went further in speaking in support of women’s and children’s health issues on the campaign trail. Read about some of the stand-outs.
We’ve indexed some of the largest and most influential categories to make it easy to find members who fit within these segments—and we pulled out a few fun facts for your next Zoom virtual happy hour, too!
Every member of Congress—no matter how junior they are or on which committees they serve—has the power to influence health care in the U.S. However, our bipartisan research team believes there are a select few who stand out as “Ones to Watch” in the incoming freshman class.