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What to know on Jeffries and health care

Hakeem Jeffries walking in the halls of the Capitol

Jeffries leaves a meeting with House Democrats at the Capitol Thursday. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

It looks like Hakeem Jeffries is going to be the next leader of the House Democrats, but his health care views are more of a mystery than Nancy Pelosi's — so here's what we've been able to find out.

The big picture: Yes, Jeffries supports strengthening the Affordable Care Act and lowering prescription drug costs — he's spoken about both. He's also given rhetorical support to progressive goals like Medicare for All, but leaves himself an out to support more moderate options too.

  • Case in point: Jeffries announced his support for Medicare for All in 2019, but he also endorsed more moderate approaches at the same time, like a public option, Peter Sullivan writes.
  • He is not seen as a major champion of Medicare for All, but he is signed on to the bill as a cosponsor, in a nod to progressives. 
  • This speech Jeffries gave to the Center for American Progress is a bit old — it's from 2019 — but watch it if you want to get some sense of how he talks about health care.

Zoom in: Jeffries' office hasn't responded yet to our request for more information on his priorities, but we'll keep you posted if they do. Meantime, Maya Goldman has some more details to watch:

  • Jeffries will likely prioritize keeping the Medicare drug provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act intact and stopping Republicans' attempts to cut Medicare next year, one health care analyst predicted.
  • He has also supported efforts to simplify the process for getting biosimilars and generic drugs on the market, so he may do more work on patent reform, the analyst said.
  • Jeffries’ current health care staffer has focused on prescription drug cost reform, obesity prevention policy and efforts to protect safety net hospitals, a lobbyist told Axios.

What they're saying: “People don't want less health care, they want more health care. And so I suspect that he'll [Jeffries] be keen to to continue the evolutionary growth of the ACA which has worked,” Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal told Victoria Knight.

Reality check: Jeffries is inheriting some pretty big checked-off items on the Democratic to-do list and will probably have to come up with his own, Caitlin Owens points out.

  • Pelosi already got the ACA and Medicare drug price negotiations done — and health care is such a big issue for Democratic voters that he'll likely be expected to come up with a bigger agenda than just preserving the existing gains.

The backstory: Pelosi had a big hand in passing the Affordable Care Act and had a huge role in rescuing it from the dead in 2010 after Democrats lost their 60-seat majority in the Senate.

  • “I watched day after day as she worked on the ACA, it was unbelievable," Neal told Victoria. "And she never threatened — it was always more about cajoling. And it was, you know, come to your senses on your own."
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