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Health Care: 10 Staffers to Know

“People in my job need to be willing to meet with everyone to bring as many viewpoints back to our bosses as possible,” Murray said. “The most productive meetings are ones in which people are informed and can speak to their issue, as a lobbyist but also from the perspective of an everyday American.”

In her 10 years on Capitol Hill, Murray points to President Barack Obama’s signing this year of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program bill as her proudest achievement to date.

She sees today’s health care debate as the greatest opportunity so far for real reform because the public is finally ready for more certainty and affordability in their health care services, and an inspirational president who has made the issue a priority.

“This debate is going to have so many varied interests,” said a health care lobbyist who is following the debate closely. “Liz will be the one to build consensus.”

Karen Nelson, deputy committee staff director for health for the House Energy and Commerce Committee
Birthplace: Elgin, Ill.
Education: B.A., Cornell University, graduate work at Harvard University

Nelson brings more than 30 years of health care and legislative experience to her role as the top health care staffer on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, including 18 years with Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.).

Lobbyists say it shows in her ability to harness a talented staff and execute her boss’s legislative priorities.

“Karen is the heart and soul of the health team,” said Rich Tarplin, a Democratic lobbyist and former Clinton health care administration official. “She applies strong policy expertise with strategic ability and strong management skills to get things done.”

Nelson has had a hand in almost every piece of major health care legislation to pass through the chamber in the past three decades, from holding the earliest hearings on the AIDS epidemic to developing a food labeling system and securing the Hatch-Waxman provisions that brought generic drugs to market in the 1980s.

“It helps to work for a Member who’s both very dedicated to the issues and a skilled legislator,” Nelson said. “That, and having a talented and able staff who can define solutions to problems and move legislation forward.”

Nelson says high on the agenda for the committee this year is securing a health care reform bill that will meet the goals laid out by the president and largely shared by the Caucus and members of the committee.

“Our job is to find consensus around the goals of quality, affordable coverage for all Americans,” she said, “and move that legislation forward.”

Bill Pewen, senior health policy adviser to Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine)
Age: 52
Birthplace: Pasadena, Calif.
Education: B.S., health education, Southern Oregon State University; M.P.H., epidemiology, University of Pittsburgh; Ph.D., infectious diseases and microbiology, University of Pittsburgh

During a time of closely divided government, moderates in both parties are in high demand. Snowe is one of the leading Republican moderates, and Pewen is the leader of her health care shop.

Pewen says he likes the role Snowe plays. “I appreciate representing a Member who has worked to bridge divides and build consensus, as that is critical to making reform sustainable over the long term.”

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