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Health Care: 10 Staffers to Know

These Staffers Help Write the Rx for Health Care

While President Barack Obama has made reform of the nation’s health care system one of his priorities, the real work tends to get done in the legislative trenches. The responsibility for reaching an elusive bipartisan deal will fall to a number of talented legislative staff in both chambers. Here are 10 Hill staffers who will play a crucial role in whatever health care legislation is enacted.

David Bowen, staff director for Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, majority staff
Age: 43
Birthplace: Summit, N.J.
Education: B.S., Brown University; Ph.D., neurobiology, University of California at San Francisco

Bowen serves as Sen. Edward Kennedy’s (D-Mass.) “alter ego,” taking an approach to developing policy that is based on deal-making and team building.

“I look to Sen. Kennedy as an example,” Bowen said. “Throughout his Senate career, he has found his way around legislative obstacles once seen as insurmountable.” And for many of those obstacles, Bowen added, he has found a way to turn “what others perceived as an obstacle into a path forward.”

David Nexon, now the No. 2 at AdvaMed, the medical device trade association and Bowen’s predecessor at the committee, agreed that Bowen takes such an approach. In following Kennedy’s lead, Bowen goes into negotiations knowing that he needs to seek common ground in order to develop a lasting deal on policy, Nexon said. And the way to do that is to focus on broad goals rather than narrow policy differences.

Conservative health lobbyists agree. Bowen is “willing to listen to both sides and work to find common ground in order to promote good public policy,” one lobbyist said.

Bowen also enjoys his work as a mentor to junior staff.

“The thing I’m most proud of is when former fellows, interns and other colleagues come up to me long after they have left the office and say that working here was the best professional experience of their career,” he said. The desire to mentor comes from his own experience as a fellow in Kennedy’s office, he added.

Chuck Clapton, health policy director for the HELP Committee’s minority health policy office
Age: 40
Birthplace: Boston
Education: B.A., Boston College; J.D., Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law

Clapton is the top health care staffer in the HELP minority office and works closely with the majority in finding health care compromises.

Clapton coordinates the health activities of the minority staff and assists his boss, Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), in developing policy positions on health reform.

Clapton’s cooperative approach follows the lead of his boss, who has a history of working closely with Kennedy and who believes in the 80/20 rule. That means negotiators first identify the 80 percent of a topic where there is agreement, and then try to find a compromise on the remaining 20 percent.

Like many other health care staffers, Clapton points to the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act as his greatest accomplishment. Enacting the Medicare Modernization Act is “the most significant change to Medicare in a generation,” he said, and demonstrates the potential to use a “competitive, market-based structure to deliver a high-quality health care benefit in a cost-effective way.”

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