Mental Health Issues, Drug Safety
Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., is set to take over the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, which has jurisdiction over most health policy. Kennedy, along with several Republicans, has promised to push legislation forcing insurers to offer equal coverage for mental and physical diseases.
The committee is also likely to push legislation reforming the way the FDA regulates drug safety.
Analysts say the new Congress is unlikely to take any immediate action on rapidly rising overall health care costs.
Congress is scheduled to reauthorize a federal children's health insurance plan. Several lawmakers have said they will move to expand coverage to an estimated 8 million children who now lack it.
Health and the Presidential Campaign
Thomas P. Miller, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, says major policy shifts addressing the 40 million American adults who lack medical insurance will likely wait until after the next presidential elections.
"It's unlikely it will be solved now, so it becomes a 2008 issue," he says. "Frankly, it's unlikely to happen in 2009, either."
Ken Thorpe, a health policy analyst at Emory University, predicts Congress will spend the next two years "laying the groundwork for 2008" on health care costs.
"The good news is, it's back on the agenda. We haven't had this debate for the last six years," says Thorpe, who has advised Democratic candidates on health policy.
AARP, the powerful seniors' lobbying group, said in a statement Thursday it would begin tracking lawmaker's voting records and reporting to members "how their elected officials voted -- throughout the session."