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Health Care: 10 Staffers to Know

Mark Hayes, health policy director and chief health counsel for the Senate Finance Committee Republican staff
Age: 42
Birthplace: Shelbina, Mo.
Education: B.S., pharmacy, University of Missouri-Kansas City; J.D., American University’s Washington College of Law

Hayes is the lead health care adviser to Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, the ranking member of the Finance Committee, and he prepares his boss for negotiations with Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) on a number of issues, including the ongoing health care reform effort.

Hayes, who also serves as a resource for other Republican committee members, has so much authority that one former Senate Democratic aide referred to him as the “101st Senator.”

In working to forge a deal on health care, Hayes says he tries to step back and look at the big picture, figuring out policy differences among members and a way to bridge the gaps between them.

Like his Democratic counterpart, Hayes counts passage of the prescription drug benefit as his greatest health care accomplishment.

He served as the principal Republican staff person responsible for moving the drug benefit through committee and into law, at a time when the GOP was in the majority.

In moving his bosses’ agenda forward, Hayes uses his ability to explain complex issues in easy-to-understand language, a health insurance lobbyist said. His preparation is also an asset, said Dean Rosen, the former health care adviser to then-Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.). “Almost no staff person comes to a debate more prepared than Mark Hayes,” added Rosen, who now is a lobbyist at Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti.

Kate Leone, senior health counsel to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.)
Age: 37
Birthplace: Princeton, N.J.
Education: B.A., Cornell University, American studies; J.D., Columbia University

While Leone may see herself as a troubleshooter — watching for potential problems within the Democratic caucus — her health care peers view her as a deal-maker.

Leone, said one health care activist, is “more of a realist than an activist” who’s not interested at “tilting at windmills.” This approach is necessary because part of her job is to balance the various interests of the Senate Democratic Conference.

A Senate Democratic aide agrees. “I think she is going to want to guide any health reform to whatever is best for the caucus, not for what’s best for certain Members’ legacies.”

The aide added that one of Leone’s greatest strengths is to know where the caucus is on any particular issue, where individual Members are and where she can lose a Senator or two without hurting the legislation’s overall goal.

Leone says her greatest accomplishment in health care thus far is helping to pass a slew of bills in 2006, including shortfalls in funding for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program and problems with the Medicare program — issues that had been long stalled in Congress.

Liz Murray, senior policy adviser to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.)
Age: 33
Birthplace: Rochester, N.Y.
Education: B.A., Yale University; M.P.P., Harvard University, Kennedy School of Government

Murray has spent her entire career focused on health care issues. And lobbyists say it shows, describing her as someone with unmatched expertise on the issues and an ability to bring people together to get things done.

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