Nov. 30, 2015 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Health Care: 10 Staffers to Know

Clapton is seen as a strong asset to the HELP minority because of his experience working in health care in both chambers, one insurance lobbyist said.

Debbie Curtis, chief of staff to Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.); professional staff, House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health
Age: 42
Birthplace: Arlington, Va.
Education: B.A., Boston University

Curtis is quick to minimize the influential role she has played for more than a decade in setting health policy agenda on Capitol Hill.

“I am part of a talented team on the Ways and Means Committee working to pursue better health care policy,” Curtis said. “We shine by the policy we accomplish.”

Lobbyists say Curtis does not give herself enough credit for the many policy items she has shepherded through the House, from securing preventive benefits in Medicare to passing both the Children’s Health and Medicare Protection Act of 2007 and the Patients’ Bill of Rights.

“She’s like a great player-manager in baseball,” said a Democratic health care lobbyist. “She brings out the best in her boss and then can take the field and pitch a no-hitter.”

Curtis says achieving health care reform will hinge on both securing a public health insurance option and the willingness of all stakeholders to approach the issue with an open mind.

“Success hinges on consensus and the ability to maintain the momentum President Obama has clearly given to health care reform,” Curtis said. “It will be the difference in our ability to put together what is a very large bill in a time frame that is not very long.”

Liz Fowler, senior counsel and chief health counsel to Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.)
Age: 42
Birthplace: Taipei, Taiwan
Education: B.A., University of Pennsylvania; Ph.D., Johns Hopkins School of Public Health; J.D., University of Minnesota

Fowler leads the Finance Democrats’ health care team. She coordinates health care reform efforts and works closely with the staff of ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), along with Senate and House leadership.

The role requires Fowler to be a troubleshooter. “It is my job to find that common ground and mend fences if they need to be mended,” she said.

That skill was put to the test when Fowler helped pass the Medicare Modernization Act, which provided a prescription drug benefit for seniors and was one of the hallmark health care accomplishments of the Bush administration.

This effort was “personally and professionally, one of the most challenging times in my life,” Fowler said, because the issues were so complex and Democrats found themselves left out of much of the Republican-led negotiations.

Fowler believes the biggest challenge this year will be “getting the numbers to work” by ensuring that the votes are there to pass health care reform.

Various health care lobbyists cited Fowler’s work on the prescription drug benefit as an example of her skill in finding compromises.

Still, Fowler’s willingness to work with Republicans and the Bush administration on the MMA could be a hindrance to future negotiations, said one Senate Democratic aide, who added that many Democrats felt that Baucus undercut Senate leadership by reaching a deal with the Bush administration.

“I think a lot of old-timers are going to remember the fights over the MMA,” the staffer said.

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