Axios Pro: Health Care PolicyThought Bubble

November 17, 2022

Axios Pro Exclusive Content

Good afternoon — here's our quick read on what the passing of the torch in the House Democratic leadership could mean for health care.

1 big thing: What to know on Jeffries and health care

Hakeem Jeffries walks through 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 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 respond yet to our request for more information on his priorities, but we'll keep you posted if they do. Meantime, Maya 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. 

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."

One more pic for the road ...

Nancy Pelosi embraces Hakeem Jeffries on the House floor
Pelosi talks to Jeffries Thursday after announcing she won't seek a leadership role in the upcoming Congress. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

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