Short-Timer Whitehouse Has His Say
"While Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) is expected to be on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee only for a short time, he should have a major effect on health reform," Roll Call reports. "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) chose Whitehouse to temporarily take the place of former Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), now secretary of State, on HELP because of his experience with health care policy at the state level." But when Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., takes over "the long-vacant Minnesota seat, Whitehouse's time on the committee will soon be coming to an end -- but not before the health debate is finished."
Whitehouse, who "has represented Rhode Island since 2006," is a former Rhode Island attorney general, a former state insurance commissioner, and a former U.S. attorney. "Among his responsibilities were helping to establish a statewide children's health insurance plan, pursuing health care fraud and founding a state health care quality center. As a result, Whitehouse said, he 'came into the debate with a very, very strong set of views' on how to overhaul the health care system." Whithouse "believes that health care can be improved through a focus on preventing diseases, changes to the Medicare reimbursement system and an increased investment in electronic medical records." His "hope is that he will make a favorable enough impression so that he would be considered for any future openings on committees that cover health care" (Langel, 7/6).
Roll Call also has a profile of Elizabeth Wroe, "who serves as health counsel to Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H. Wroe "always makes clear up front what her boss needs to support a bill," and "is consistent, never wavering on the Senator's terms throughout negotiations." She "also played a central role in passing reforms to the Food and Drug Administration, including reauthorizing and increasing industry user fees used to fund agency safety inspections and reviews." Wroe says her plan for health care "negotiations is to be 'as aggressive as possible' in trying to further Gregg's goals of expanding coverage while lowering costs. Gregg, who is the ranking member of the Budget Committee, has taken an active role in trying to ensure that health care reform does not add to the federal deficit. For Wroe, the key to these negotiations is to take a long-term view. 'It's a marathon, where every mile feels like a sprint,' she said."
"While Wroe believes there are a lot of unanswered questions in the reform bill that HELP is working on, she is optimistic that a bipartisan deal can be found. This week, HELP will address the coverage provisions of the bill in what is expected to be the most contentious stage of negotiations. While Wroe has worked closely with Democrats, she complains that Republicans have been left out of recent talks, a point Democrats reject. She says that while staff from both parties worked closely together on legislation from last February until a month ago, that ended when Democrats told Republican staff that they had finished the bill and were ready to go to markup" (Langel, 7/6).