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The new Democratic leaders' health team

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

The rise of a new generation of House Democratic leaders means there's also a new group of health staffers on the Hill set to have more sway (though it will take a while to attain the reputation that Pelosi health staffer Wendell Primus had).

  • Here's what we found out about them.

Hakeem Jeffries' office: Disha Banik

What we know: She’s worked on prescription drug legislation, policies to protect safety-net hospitals and obesity prevention programs in Jeffries' office.

  • Banik previously worked for former Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida and in the DOJ’s antitrust division. She also had a tax policy internship with the Senate Finance Committee, according to LinkedIn, and has a master’s degree in global health.
  • The National Minority Health Forum named Banik as one of their 40 under 40 Leaders in Health earlier this year.
  • Her profile from her fellowship with the Bryce Harlow Foundation, which focuses on government advocacy, notes that she was born in India, grew up in California, and went into public service because she "saw the contrast in wealth and poverty from a young age."
  • “I don’t think there’s anything more important to a person than their physical and mental health,” Banik said in that profile. “If you aren’t healthy, you probably aren’t happy."
  • "If you’re unhealthy and low-income, whether in the U.S. or abroad, you will have an especially hard time being productive and climbing out of poverty.”

Of note: Jeffries supports Medicare for All but has also endorsed more moderate health reform policies. We reported on the likely incoming House minority leader's health policy record last week.

Katherine Clark’s office: Wooyoung Lim

What we know: She’s Clark’s health staffer and a senior legislative assistant. Lim has worked in Clark’s office since September 2020.

  • She previously worked for Rep. Lori Trahan, Rep. Jimmy Gomez, Rep. Mark Takano, and the House Democratic Caucus.

Clark’s health work: She has focused much of her health-related legislation on maternal health, the opioid crisis and children's mental health.

Our thought bubble: Two of Clark’s key health issues, mental health and maternal health, could provide an avenue for bipartisan work in the new Congress.

  • Although there's been bipartisan discussions on mental health this year, there's also been talk among some Republicans of allocating more funding for maternal health and children in light of Roe being overturned.

Pete Aguilar's office: Elise Sugarman

What we know: A senior legislative assistant, since May 2021 she has been in her role covering issues like health care, according to her LinkedIn page. 

  • She was an intern with the House Democratic Caucus in 2016, when now-HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra was chairman. She also had an internship with NARAL in 2017.
  • In addition, she worked for Rep. Bill Foster on issues like education and transportation before moving to Aguilar's office.

Aguilar's health work: He's not a co-sponsor of the House Medicare for All bill, while Jeffries and Clark are. He is a member of the more centrist New Democrat Coalition. 

  • He has touted mainstream Democratic health care views like the drug pricing provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act, as well as its extension of enhanced Affordable Care Act subsidies. 

Yes, but: Don't forget the new Democratic leaders always reserve the right to make staff changes when they move up in leadership. If they do, we'll tell you as soon as we know about it!

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