image description

Former Congressman Dr. Phil Gingrey provides public policy and government relations counsel to clients on a variety of issues. Here at Phil on the Hill, Phil draws upon his long career in public service to provide perspective and context on policy topics such as health care, the federal budget, annual appropriations, regulatory reform, and life sciences.

Congress Needs to Double-Down on Recent Progress

Friday, July 20, 2018

Making progress in Congress is like pushing a rope. Even after the most comprehensive and necessary legislation is passed, there is no time for celebration before the next push is needed. The problems of our country don’t rest, and neither can Congress.

The House’s efforts to pass a raft of opioid bills serves as a good example of this. Combining nearly 60 bills, this expansive set of legislation seeks to address perhaps the most devastating public health crises of modern times. But as we wait to see how these bills play out, the former legislator in me cannot help but think – what next?

Now, with the pressure and time constraints of the opioid legislation on the backburner, Congress finally has the chance to address some other good health care bills that so far have yet to receive a hearing.

To their credit, members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee have advanced bills relating to both maternal mortality (Senate Bill 1112) and premature births (Senate Bill 3029). Combined with the Senate Appropriations Committee’s allocation of $12 million to specifically address maternal mortality, it is clear that Congress is beginning to get serious about addressing one of America’s most heart-wrenching medical realities. As a retired OB-GYN who delivered more than 5,000 babies, I am thrilled to see the Senate take action on these important maternal and child health issues. And as a retired member of Congress, I am pleased these measures have strong bipartisan support. I encourage my former colleagues on the House Energy & Commerce Committee to follow suit and take quick action. These bills should be enacted this year.

Another bill that warrants attention is the Sports Medicine Licensure Clarity Act of 2017, which would give interstate liability protection to certain non-physician professionals such as athletic trainers. Consider, for example, the athletic trainers who keep your alma mater’s football team healthy on road trips. Athletic trainers in sports settings only account for half of all athletic trainers in the U.S., and as I’ve written previously, the scope of their training and care they provide to patients fills a critical role in the health care system. There are many such maintenance issues that Congress should not let fall by the wayside when dealing with life and death issues.

The current Congress deserves credit for work in recent weeks, especially on the health care front. Much maligned from all sides for past health care failures, these legislators found a way to not only put forth a viable first step in fighting the opioid crisis, but also address two of America’s other pervasive health problems, maternal mortality and premature births. But Congress cannot rest. Complacency can too easily lead to inaction, and there are simply too many important pieces of legislation still kicking around to allow this to happen. Americans are not served by politicians resting on their laurels, and members of Congress must maintain momentum and continue to try and find ways to work together to pass lifesaving legislation.