10 members-elect who stand out as new health care voices in Congress

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. These individuals were chosen because they possess a combination of critical qualifications and a willingness to promote reforms in the health care system. The Ones to Watch include members with professional health care experience (either as a provider or in industry) and those previously active in health policy at other levels of government or who have indicated that systemic health care reforms are a top priority. There are certainly dozens more freshmen who could have made our list, but we forced ourselves to a limit of 10.

Two notes on the list: Firstly, inclusion does not equate to endorsement of the members’ policy positions by the CURA team. Inclusion reflects only that these individuals stood out from the class as likely being very vocal on health care and perhaps shortlisted for health-related committee assignments. Second, given the ratio of freshmen Republicans to freshmen Democrats is 3:1, the list presents more members of the GOP who are likely to impact health policy.

Rep. Jack Auchincloss (D-MA)

Public Health is a Family Affair

The Auchincloss family is a health powerhouse. Auchincloss’ mother, Laurie Glimcher, is the first female CEO of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. His father, Hugh Auchincloss, is Dr. Tony Fauci’s top deputy and his brother Hugh is a thoracic surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital, leading teams in COVID response. His sister, Kalah Auchincloss, served as Deputy Chief of Staff for two FDA Commissioners. As for Auchincloss himself: he served in the Marines until running for office in 2015, when he began his service on the Newton, MA City Council. He strongly supports expanding the ACA with a public option but believes we need to protect private insurance. He favors increased federal support for the life sciences, a major industry in Massachusetts.

Rep. Stephanie Bice (R-OK)

The Health Care Watchdog

Bice served in the Oklahoma Senate for the last six years. She chaired the Finance Committee and served on the Appropriations and Public Safety Committees. Bice caught the attention of the CURA research team after learning she was awarded Oklahoma’s AARP Legislator of the Year for championing the elderly and being the original sponsor of a bill that requires informed consent for nursing home patients and their families regarding the use of powerful antipsychotic drugs.


In Congress, Stephanie has stated her priorities will include lowering out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs, ending surprise medical bills and encouraging innovation that can lead to life-saving cures and treatments. Bice believes the ACA should be repealed if pre-existing conditions can be protected. She supports expanding health savings account access, allowing health insurance to be purchased across state lines and small businesses insurance pools. In the OK Senate, she introduced legislation related to insurance practices, such as ending surprise medical bills and ensuring adequacy of provider networks. She also introduced legislation in support of senior health, women and infant health and mental health and addiction treatment. For example, Bice was the leading sponsor of a successful bill that requires new mother education about perinatal mental health disorders.

Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO)

The Health Equity Promoter

Bush is a Registered Nurse who has worked in numerous health care settings, including as a charge nurse responsible for critical transplant patents and in a mental health clinic. Health care is at the center of her platform. Bush is a passionate activist on social issues and for health care services for the disadvantaged, particularly people of color.


Bush has experienced homelessness and is raising two children as a single mother. She is an ardent supporter of Medicare for All. She seeks to expand access to maternal health care services for women of all income levels, including access to contraception, STI testing and abortion services. Additional priorities include access to preventive medicine, investing in medical research and increasing workforce development funding for HBCUs and MSIs to train Black medical professionals at all levels. Two of the largest Catholic nonprofit health systems are in her Missouri district: Ascension Health and SSM Health.

Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-NY)


Garbarino spent seven years in the New York State Assembly and has extensive experience on both the Insurance and Health Committees, serving as chairman of the Insurance Committee. Some of the creative approaches he pursued for Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance may have been informed by his executive committee participation with the National Council of Insurance Legislators, a pro-state regulation group of legislators.


He has been active in many different health and disease areas. Notably, he championed diversion programs and crisis response teams in mental health, advocated for improved mental health treatment for Veterans and strived to increase access to treatment for people living with opioid use disorder. He has championed the rights of and care for senior citizens, including investigating New York’s diversion of COVID-19 patients into nursing homes and ensuring nursing home residents have access to healthy loved ones during the crisis.

Rep. Yvette Herrell (R-NM)

Calls on the Midwives

A four-term state legislator, Herrell will become the first Republican Native American woman in Congress. She served on the Health, Welfare and Indian Affairs Committee in the New Mexico House. Herrell stood out to the CURA research team because of her active support of midwifery and school nursing. Herrell is pro-life, with an exception for protecting the life of the mother, and introduced various anti-abortion bills. She authored a law to provide malpractice insurance premium assistance for certified nurse-midwives or physicians whose insurance costs jeopardize their ability to continue their obstetrics practices in New Mexico. She also co-authored a bill to extend the rights of lay midwives to administer a limited formulary of drugs and devices. The later bill passed both chambers but was pocket vetoed by the governor.


Beyond these issues, Herrell supports repealing and replacing the ACA with market-based reforms that protect choice. She wants to expand access to mental health professionals for all with a particular focus on improving Veterans’ health care. Herrell supports expanding rural health care, including building medical infrastructure in rural areas and incentivizing medical professionals to practice in rural areas.

Rep. Kai Kahele (D-HI)

Veteran Defender of Veterans Mental Health

Kahele served as a Hawaii state senator for four years. Among other assignments, he served on the Ways and Means Committee and as the Senate Majority Floor Leader. A military pilot who flew over 100 missions, Kahele served in the Reserves while in the state senate. In May 2020, Kahele joined the Hawaii National Guard’s COVID-19 Joint Task Force in an active-duty capacity.


Kahele has vowed to make military health, specifically military suicide prevention, his top priority and has been an avid proponent of mental health and addiction treatment. As a state senator, Kahele sponsored legislation to ensure mental health parity and expand access to mental health resources for Hawaiian youth, mothers and inmates. He also sponsored legislation that would allow pharmacists to prescribe opioid addiction treatments. Additionally, Kahele sponsored legislation to include Native Hawaiian cultural intervention in treatment programs for those living with opioid use disorder. Drug pricing is also a priority for Kahele; while in the state senate, he authored numerous bills unfavorable to the PBM industry.

Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM)

The Health Care Innovation Champion

Luján served in the U.S. House for eleven years, including a stint as the Assistant Speaker of the House and a member of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee. He was the highest-ranking House member to cosponsor Medicare for All and authored legislation that would allow Americans to buy into Medicaid. A mental health advocate, Luján authored the Opioid and Heroin Abuse Crisis Investment Act, which allocated $1.1 billion to fight the opioid epidemic.


Luján has been a health innovation champion. He introduced ECHO, which establishes a federal grant program to increase health care access in rural and underserved areas through telemonitoring technology, and several bills in support of diagnostic quality, safety and innovation. He was actively engaged in developing the 21st Century Cures Act. Additionally, Luján received the American Society of Clinical Oncology Congressional Leadership Award in 2019 after he co-introduced the CLINICAL TREATMENT Act, which would have required state Medicaid programs to cover routine patient costs related to clinical trial participation for cancer or other life-threatening conditions. He has been a champion for reducing health disparities, particularly among Hispanic and Native American populations. With his addition to the Senate, there are now five Senators with Hispanic heritage: three Democrats and two Republicans.

Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC)

Bipartisan Sensibility

As the first female graduate of The Citadel, Mace stands out as a trailblazer. She is motivated by individual liberties and economic growth and is adamantly in favor of repealing the ACA by “any means possible.” Although her ACA position is rigid, Mace is more nuanced in her positioning on other issues. For example, while Mace championed removing state approval for health care facilities and removing restrictions on licensed medical professionals, she also seeks more accountability in the pharmaceutical supply chain.

Mace sponsored various health care and women’s health-related bills. She gained visibility for being pro-life while actively supporting an amendment to the Fetal Heartbeat Bill to include exceptions for health of the mother and in cases of rape and incest. During the debate in the state house, Mace revealed that she is a survivor of sexual assault. She also sponsored legislation in support of the mental and physical health of incarcerated females and abused women and wants improvements to Veteran healthcare. A frequent blood donor, Mace donated her plasma after recovering from COVID-19.

Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY)

The Triple Threat: GOP, Latinx, Woman

For the nine years she was in the New York state legislature, Malliotakis was active in health care policy. She was a member of the Women’s Caucus, served as Minority Whip and sat on the Aging and Ways & Means Committees. She has been active during COVID-19, giving away face masks to citizens and voicing criticism of her mayor’s oversight of nursing homes. She supports efforts to reform and strengthen the health care system but does not overtly support a repeal of the ACA.


Malliotakis’s record on supporting mental health and opioid addiction treatment stood out. She is a proponent of Kendra’s Law, which allows judges to confine a patient to a psychiatric facility for up to 72 hours if they are deemed to be a threat to others or themselves. She also proposes additional supportive housing for those living with mental illnesses. Malliotakis opposed supervised injection sites in New York but supported opioid abuse prevention legislation that mandated drug take-back programs, expanded treatment facilities (including assisted outpatient treatment programs) and implemented continuing education for all controlled substance prescribers. Plus, she is a dog lover, so she deserves a call out.

Sen. Roger Marshall (R-KS)

Another Doctor in the Senate

Marshall joins Sens. Barrasso, Paul and Cassidy as physicians serving in the Senate. Marshall is an OB/GYN, having delivered over 5,000 babies in his career. He served as chairman of the Board of Great Bend Regional Hospital, a full-service, physician-owned medical system. During his two terms in the U.S. House, Marshall served as chairman of the Republican Study Committee’s health care task force and remains active in the bicameral GOP Doctors Caucus.


Marshall believes the ACA should be repealed and replaced and is staunchly supportive of market-based health care. On January 28, 2020, he became the first member of Congress to substantively speak about COVID-19 concerns and has been pushing for aggressive public health intervention since then, including increasing CDC funding. Known for his strict conservative family values, Marshall received the “True Blue” award from the Family Research Council for his 100% voting record on pro-life legislation. He has supported increased funding for mental health and addiction treatment, particularly in rural communities. Marshall has advocated for eliminating rebates for PBMs in Medicare drug purchasing and was an original co-sponsor of the Lower Costs, More Cures Act to lower drug prices through innovation and price transparency. He is also authored a successful resolution supporting the United States’ commitment to global progress against maternal and child malnutrition.With the addition of Marshall, all four doctors in the U.S. Senate are Republican.

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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.