Politics 101: Congressional Committees that Matter to HME

Posted on in HME Government Issues

Through the years, some have asked “Why does VGM’s Government Relations team build relationships with certain members of Congress and not seem to with others?” Why do we try for meetings with senators Ron Wyden and Orrin Hatch and not as many with Sen. Barbara Boxer? The answer is in the congressional members’ committee assignments. There are six committees that have jurisdiction over Medicare, meaning they have oversight of HME issues. Senators and congressmen assigned to these committees are the key players on issues critical to DME providers. To effect policymaking in our favor, we must gain support of the congressmen and their colleagues on the committee.

  1. House Ways and Means (W&M) - This committee is responsible for reviewing and making recommendations for governing budgets. The raising of revenue is vital to carrying out governmental operations. The committee is tasked with finding the “ways and means” with which to raise that revenue. The W&M committee has jurisdiction over all taxation, tariffs, and other revenue-raising measures, as well as Social Security, Medicare, and a number of other programs. This is the critical committee in the House.
  1. House Committee on Energy and Commerce - This committee is the oldest standing legislative committee in the U.S. House of Representatives. It is vested with the broadest jurisdiction of any congressional authorizing committee. The committee has served as the principal guide for the House in matters relating to the promotion of commerce and to the public’s health and marketplace interests.
  1. & 4. Senate and House Appropriations - The bills passed by the Appropriations committees regulate government expenditures. As such, it is one of the most powerful of the committees, and its members are seen as influential. Appropriations committees hold the “power of the purse.”
  1. Senate Finance - The committee concerns itself with matters relating to taxation and other revenue measures. This includes health programs under the Social Security Act (notably Medicare and Medicaid) and health programs financed by a specific tax or trust fund. Together with the appropriations committees, it is one of the most powerful committees in Congress. This is the critical committee in the Senate for DME providers.
  1. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension (HELP) - This committee concerns itself with the matters of Health, Education, Labor, and public welfare. The HELP Committee jurisdiction encompasses most of the agencies, institutes, and programs of the Department of Health and Human Services, including the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, the Administration on Aging, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
This process begins with you! Forging strong, non-partisan relationships with all influential members of Congress is key to changing policies that impact HME business. VGM and our members must work closely with congressional members who sit on these committees of jurisdiction. If the member of Congress who represents your district does not sit on one of these important committees, you can still take steps to educate him or her about our issues. Often, it is the member-to-member conversations that move legislation. In our conversations we can encourage member-to-member conversations to influence the opinions of committee members. All members of Congress are important; in our industry some are more important than others. It’s their responsibility to listen to concerns. If they feel your concern would better their state, they take it further up the ladder. That’s why it’s important to speak out so HME issues are heard.