By Chris Pirschel, Staff Writer, and Alec Stone, ONS Public Affairs Director
House Dems in New Seats Will Steer Health Policy, Drug Prices
After an arduous campaign season, the midterm election results are mostly as anticipated. The Democrats gained seats in the House of Representatives, giving the party the majority in the lower chamber starting in January 2019. The Dems say their focus for the next congressional session will focus on health policy and high drug prices. Although the jury is still out over what the midterm elections meant, most experts agree that health care was the driving political issue for voters, regardless of party.
Poll results showed that many voted for a division of power between the parties, possibly to either stop any harmful future legislation from getting passed or to force the two parties to finally work together. Currently, DC pundits are still debating the answer to that question. Regardless, the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act—especially provisions like coverage for pre-existing conditions—will not be brought up for a vote. Rather, look for bipartisan legislation to strengthen aspects of the law to ensure that patients have affordable and accessible health care—one of ONS’s central priorities.
Republicans Poised to Build on Senate Majority
The Democrats regained control of the House of Representatives, and the Republicans took new seats in the Senate. The GOP solidified its control of the upper chamber, building on its majority and winning a few new seats from Democratic incumbents. With a split Congress, healthcare legislation is unlikely to move forward—unless both parties can find common ground. Issues such as medication costs and coverage for pre-existing conditions should see bipartisan support.
With different parties leading the respective houses of government, collaboration is going to be necessary to move other healthcare legislation forward. Is this an obstacle or opportunity? Advocacy groups like ONS will spend the next sessions of Congress working to educate elected officials on the importance of the role of nurses in health care. Lend your voice and advocate for your patients and profession.
How Science Fared in the Midterm Elections
The midterm elections brought about change beyond party control. Many newly elected candidates have experience in the sciences like medicine, biochemistry, and engineering. Although only one new member of the House of Representatives is a nurse—Lauren Underwood from Illinois—several incoming elected officials will be able to use their backgrounds in science and health to inform new legislation.
It’s a welcomed opportunity for the health advocacy community to engage leaders with experience in health, who understand the need for education funding and biomedical research. Federal agencies like the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration may have new champions for congressional funding. ONS has already reached out to Representative-Elect Underwood to begin conversations about nursing leadership in Congress and will work with new and returning legislators to advocate for nursing research initiatives, educational funding, and more.