Last week, Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Greg Walden (R-OR) discussed his legacy on health care issues, advice he has for his successor, and the importance of bipartisanship, and the path ahead on issues like surprise medical billing, drug pricing, and COVID-19 with Roll Call.
You can read excerpts of the conversation below.
By Sandhya Raman
November 24, 2020
Congress still has the potential to move forward in a bipartisan way on health care issues, including possible action to ban surprise medical bills, the top Republican on the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee told CQ Roll Call as he approaches retirement.
In a wide-ranging interview with CQ Roll Call, the 11-term lawmaker reflected on his time shaping health policy and highlighted issues he hopes his successor will focus on.
“I’ve had a great run and I’m not one of those cranky, grumpy members leaving in disgust,” Walden said. “Democracy was meant to be messy and loud and I think we’d all admit there have been times when it’s louder and messier than any of us wanted or liked, but it still works.”
He said he hopes his successor follows the formula he tried to adhere to, especially in following regular congressional order rather than bringing legislation to the floor without input from rank-and-file members.
“I always tried to do hearings, and then markups, you know, and subcommittee and full committee,” Walden said. “I think it’s really important to do that and to realize that people sitting on the other side of the dais aren’t your enemies. They may just have different views.”
More recently, Walden has focused on efforts to lower the cost of prescription drugs and end surprise medical billing.
House Democrats backed a drug pricing bill that was rejected by Senate Republicans. Opponents of that bill argued that it would stifle innovation of new drugs.
“We as Republicans were very hesitant about not blocking innovation when it comes to health care,” Walden said, pointing to current efforts to bring a COVID-19 vaccine or treatment to market.
A Congressional Budget Office previously estimated that the bill could result in eight to 15 fewer drugs not being developed over the following decade.
“Well, for goodness sakes, we sit here on the cusp of a scientific miracle breakthrough with vaccines for COVID that’s going to be 95 percent effective,” he said. “What if you had backed up 10 years and had this regime in place? Where would we be on innovation, and would one of those vaccines be one of those eight or 10 new drugs, never developed? I don’t know.”
He remains somewhat optimistic that surprise billing legislation could cross the finish line in the lame-duck session.
“We have a really good bipartisan, bicameral solid piece of policy here that protects the consumers and, but I’ll tell you, it’s a tough business taking on the medical industrial complex,” Walden said. “I think we’re close to getting something that can get through, hopefully before the end of the year.”
Read the full piece here.