What Will Murray, Baucus, And Kerry Do To Health Care?

Inside Health Policy’s Amy Lotven, Sahil Kapur, and Ben Moscovitch offer the best analysis for what the appointments of Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA), Max Baucus (D-MT) and John Kerry (D-MA) to the super committee tasked with finding $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction measures could mean for Medicare, Medicaid, and the health care law. The trio suggest that the senators’ close relationships with the pharmaceutical and medical devise industries and teaching hospitals could help shield those groups from additional cuts, while Baucus’ chairmanship of the Senate Finance Committee could protect Medicare and Medicaid from steep reductions. His authorship of the health reform law — Baucus spent months negotiating with Republicans in hopes of producing a bipartisan measure — may also make him far less willing to significantly alter the measure.

Murray is also positioned to steer clear of significant entitlement changes. In her role as chairwoman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in charge of electing Democrats, she is unlikely to support cuts to programs a majority of Americans overwhelmingly support. In fact, Murray recently attacked Republicans for turning Medicare “into a voucher program run by for-profit insurance companies in order to pay for more giveaways to oil companies and the very rich.” Those sound like fighting words.

Here are some additional details on what to expect from each member:

— BAUCUS: Protect PhRMA, goodbye CLASS: He crafted large section of the health care law, but did vote to repeal the measure’s long-term care program or CLASS ACT. “Baucus also played a key role in negotiating the White House-backed deals with the health care industry — — including PhRMA, hospitals, nursing homes and imaging — in which the sectors agreed to accept certain cuts up front with the expectation they would be shielded from further reductions.” Sources also tell Inside Health Policy that Baucus is opposed to a proposal that would extend Medicaid rebates into Medicare Part D.


— KERRY: Teaching hospitals, medical devise companies shielded: He has advocated to soften cuts to the home health industry and has opposed the tax on the medical device industry, “which is strong in his state, ultimately helping to get the assessment cut in half.” “Kerry has also been a key advocate for teaching hospitals that rely on Medicare direct and indirect graduate medical education funding. The debt limit negotiations led by Vice President Joe Biden included consideration of reducing such payments by $14 billion, and the president’s fiscal commission had eyed a policy that would reduce the payments by $5.8 trillion. On July 15, Kerry and his GOP colleague Sen. Scott Brown (MA) wrote a letter to the White House urging the president to protect teaching hospitals.”

— MURRAY: Drug reimportation considered She has backed drug reimportation. “Murray voted for a health reform amendment introduced by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) that would have mandated HHS certify that reimported drugs are safe before they are reimported, although the provision — considered a compromise measure to give Democrats cover from pharmaceutical industry opposition — also failed.”

The other panel members will be appointed by Boehner, McConnell, and Pelosi. The super committee is scheduled to vote on recommendations by Nov. 23, which will receive an up-or-down vote in the House and the Senate by Dec. 23. If Congress does not enact the proposal, a set of spending cuts are triggered that would affect both discretionary and mandatory spending.