Three Senate Democrats who are pivotal on health issues have announced their retirement: Sens. Max Baucus (D-MT), Tom Harkin (D-IA), and John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV). Health advocates are beginning to assess the potential impact of their departures on the United States’ health care policy. Over the past three decades, the three senators have been vital in creating, expanding, and preserving many of the nation’s health and safety-net programs.
Sen. Baucus chairs the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over Medicare, Medicaid, and tax policy; Sen. Harkin chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee; and Sen. Rockefeller chairs the Senate Finance Health Subcommittee. Based on seniority, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) would succeed Baucus on Finance, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) would follow Harkin on the HELP Committee, and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) would succeed Rockefeller on the Finance Health Subcommittee.
As things go in Washington, nothing is certain; we will have to wait and see who will actually replace the senators on these committees of importance to dental education, dental and craniofacial research, and health care in general.