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Key Players: Health Care Reform

BY Admin  June 8, 2009 at 5:30 PM EDT

Sen. Max Baucus; AP/File

Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont. | As chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Baucus is in charge of the committee that will be responsible for drafting one of two versions of a Senate health care reform bill.

Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. | Kennedy, the Senate Health Committee chairman, has advocated for universal health care during much of his decades-long Senate career. Kennedy organized twice-weekly meetings between organizations and individuals with major stakes in the health care reform process in order to facilitate a reform bill. He’s currently rarely seen in public as he battles cancer.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa | As the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, Grassley will play a key role in how the GOP influences the health care reform process.

Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo. | The House minority whip is leading the GOP’s Health Care Solutions Group that holds weekly meetings to talk about health care reform.

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel | Emanuel, a former Illinois congressman and staff member for President Bill Clinton, will be a central figure in pressing the president’s health care reform agenda on Capitol Hill. Emanuel’s brother, Ezekiel, is a doctor who has emerged as a special adviser on health care reform and a possible behind-the-scenes player in the reform debate.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. | Pelosi, the speaker of the House, has promised to deliver health care reform before Congress’ summer recess and is in a powerful position to guide legislation through Congress. Pelosi favors including a public plan in the legislation — a government-run insurance option for people who do not have other coverage.

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif. | As both a supporter of comprehensive health care reform and chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Waxman will help mold the House version of a health care reform bill.

Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf | During President Clinton’s effort to reform health care in 1994, a key development that helped defeat the plan was a negative assessment by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. Then-CBO Director Robert Reischauer told Congress that the plan would be much more expensive than the White House had advertised, which helped sink the reform effort. This time around, Elmendorf’s office will again play a major role in the perceived cost of reform plans offered up by the Obama administration or Congress.

White House Office of Health Reform Chief Nancy-Ann DeParle | DeParle managed Medicare and Medicaid during the Clinton administration, before that she was commissioner of the Department of Human Services in Tennessee. In her new job, she shuttles regularly between the White House and Congress, meeting regularly with Congressional leaders on health care reform.

White House Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag | At age 40, Orszag is the youngest member of President Obama’s Cabinet, and he acts as one of the White House’s top representatives in reform negotiations. He worked on the issue as former director of the Congressional Budget Office.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius | Although she was President Obama’s second choice to lead the Department of Health and Human Services after former Sen. Tom Daschle withdrew from consideration over tax troubles, Sebelius will be another of the Obama administration’s point persons on pushing a reform plan through Congress this year. Sebelius previously served as governor of Kansas and that state’s health insurance commissioner.

SEIU President Andy Stern | Stern oversees the concerns of one of the fastest-growing unions in the country. The Service Employees International Union has more than 2 million members, and 50 percent of them work in the health care industry. Stern has been lobbying for health care reform with President Obama and members of the pharmaceutical and hospital industries.

America’s Health Insurance Plans President Karen Ignagni | As president and CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), Ignagni is a powerful lobbyist who represents the health insurance industry — a group that has much at stake as President Obama and congressional Democrats push to lower the cost and expand the coverage of health care in America. Democrats’ proposed reforms include creating a public insurance plan that would compete with Ignagni’s clients.

National Federation of Independent Businesses CEO Dan Danner | NFIB is expected to be one of the key voices representing the interests of businesses in health reform. Of particular concern to the group is the potential cost burden placed on small businesses in building a universal health care system.