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CLINTON HEALTH TRANSITION TEAM FORMING POLICY TASK FORCES ON AIDS, HEALTH REFORM, PUBLIC HEALTH; "CLUSTER GROUPS" WILL REVIEW HEALTH AGENCY MISSIONS

Executive Summary

The health transition team for the incoming Clinton Administration is forming policy "task forces" on AIDS, health care reform and public health. The task forces will assist Georgetown University health policy professor Judith Feder and her transition deputy Atul Gawande in developing options for the new administration to translate Clinton's health care campaign pledges into policy proposals. Formation of the groups is "close to being complete." The health reform panel is expected to be subdivided into groups focusing on issues such as cost containment, coverage and Medicare/Medicaid. The transition team also is putting together "cluster groups" to review the mission of each health-related federal agency and to make personnel recommendations. The task forces and cluster groups provide the first inkling into how President-elect Clinton will approach the nuts-and-bolts aspects of putting together the new administration. The cluster groups will have to coordinate their work with that of former South Carolina Gov. Richard Riley (D), who has been named assistant director for personnel in the transition team. Riley will be responsible for reviewing candidates for the 3,000-4,000 executive branch positions to be filled by the new administration. The selection of one individual to oversee appointments below the cabinet secretary level reinforces the impression that Clinton and his top advisors will keep tight reins on the selection process rather than delegating that authority to the new secretaries. Both Feder and Clinton's Arkansas state Health Department Director Jocelyn Elders, MD, were in Washington, D.C. the week of Nov. 16 -- Feder to meet with members of Congress and their staff on behalf of Clinton, and Elders to discuss AIDS. Elders appeared at a Nov. 17 meeting of the National Commission on AIDS aimed at developing recommendations for the Clinton Administration and Congress. Although she spoke as a representative of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, Elders drew special interest because she has been mentioned as a candidate for a health post in the new administration. She called for increased federal funding for state and local AIDS prevention programs, expressed concern that CDC's AIDS prevention budget is too low and stressed the key role of public education in AIDS prevention. While current talk in Washington is focusing on newcomers to the Clinton Administration, the flip side of the changing of the guard is that outgoing officials form a pool of regulatory experts for private sector groups recruiting new staff. Already, for example, Deputy Assistant to the President Thomas Scully announced Nov. 19 that he will join the health practice group at the D.C. office of the law firm Patton, Boggs & Blow. Scully previously was an Office of Management & Budget associate director. Scully's embrace of Medicaid drug rebates as a cost-savings measure was a turning point for the rebate legislation. Commerce Department Deputy Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks Douglas Comer is among candidates under consideration to head the new biotech group that will be formed by the merger of the Industrial Biotechnology Association and Association of Biotechnology Companies (see related item, In Brief). Similarly, the Health Insurance Association of America has indicated that it will not name a successor to current association President Carl Schramm until the end of the year; the announcement was originally targeted for mid-November. Among several factors apparently influencing the delay is that HIAA wants to consider Bush Administration officials who may be newly available. On the congressional side, the House expects to have its committees named and staffed by Inauguration Day (Jan. 20) in order to assist Clinton in getting a fast start on legislative initiatives. Speaking Nov. 16 in Little Rock after a meeting between Clinton and Democratic congressional leaders, House Speaker Foley (D-Wash.) said: "We will begin to organize the House ...earlier than any time in recent memory so that our committees will be fully staffed and organized" by "the time of [Clinton's] inauguration or even slightly before." The House Ways & Means and Energy & Commerce Committees expect panel members to be named in December, with subcommittee assignments completed in January. The panels each have about a dozen vacancies.
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