Capitol Hill

New year, new Congress

Here’s what DOs and osteopathic medical students need to know about the 118th Congress.


Every two years, Congress sees change. Though senators are elected on alternating six-year terms, representatives serve only two-year terms. Sometimes, this means a change in leadership, particularly if a new party is elected to the majority. The Democratic Party has held the highest leadership positions in the House of Representatives for the last four years and in the Senate for the last two years.

With the 2023 Congress, the Republican Party has stepped into leadership in the House and the Democratic Party has maintained its leadership presence in the Senate. With a Democratic president, this may change the tide for some legislative priorities.

New leadership

As the Republican Party assumes the majority, new leaders have been elected. Though there was some contention, the new speaker of the house is Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). He has previously served as majority whip and majority leader, among other leadership positions. Alongside Speaker McCarthy is new Majority Leader Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.). He has also previously served as majority whip and minority whip and will assist Republican leadership in managing the party’s legislative program.

The Democratic Party has elected Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) to serve as the minority leader and Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) as the minority whip. Both have served in numerous leadership roles before assuming these high-ranking positions in their previous terms in Congress.

More information about House leadership is available here.

In the Senate, much has remained the same with its leadership. There are 49 Republicans and 48 Democrats. There are three independents in the Senate, and they caucus with the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party maintains the majority, and is currently led by Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Democratic Majority Whip Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) maintains his role as minority leader and Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) as minority whip.

More information about Senate leadership is available here.

Closing out 2022 and the 117th Congress

After reviewing the new 118th Congress, I’d like to note that a very important bill was signed into law with the previous Congress. As a final act, the end-of-year legislative omnibus package (Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023), passed by the 117th Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden, had some large health care policy wins, listed below.

Medicare payments

  • Reduced the 4.5% cut to Medicare physician payment by increasing the 2023 conversion factor by 2.5%.
  • Prevented the additional 4% pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) reduction in physician payment.
  • Mitigated physician payment cuts originally slated to take effect in January 2023 by 6.5%.

Alternative payment models

  • A one-year extension of the bonus payment for advance alternative payment models (APMs) at 3.5%.

Telehealth services

  • A two-year extension for numerous Medicare telehealth services that are temporarily available due to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) was included.

Graduate medical education

  • Funding for the distribution of 200 additional Medicare-funded graduate medical education (GME) residency positions.
  • Requires at least 100 to go to psychiatry or psychiatry subspecialty residencies.

Postpartum coverage

  • Mandatory for states to provide children with 12 months of continuous coverage under Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
  • States will also have the option to provide 12 months of continuous postpartum coverage for birthing parents after the COVID-19 public health emergency ends.

Substance use disorder

  • Eliminates the X-waiver requirement to dispense buprenorphine for opioid use disorder treatment.
  • Promotion of greater access to high-quality, affordable mental health care for all Americans regardless of income, race, disability or zip code by providing grant funding to assist states with the implementation of the federal mental health parity requirements.

The inclusion of the health policy initiatives above in the omnibus package couldn’t have been accomplished without the sustained advocacy efforts from the osteopathic profession.

New priorities, new connections

With a new Congress comes new priorities and new connections to be made. Leadership roles change, committee positions change, and now, even staffers may change.

All of this is to say that there has been some turnover of leadership responsibilities for this upcoming Congress. We encourage you to reach out to your members of Congress and their staff, whether new or incumbent, to establish the connection for the upcoming legislative cycle. You will hear more from the AOA staff about legislative priorities that we can help influence and opportunities to write to your lawmakers.

The 118th Congress will continue to maintain health care as a top priority, so we will need your help as advocates in establishing and fostering relationships with your representatives. As Congress takes the first steps in naming members of Congress to committees, the AOA will begin its work with the committees that have jurisdiction over health care policies.

To help amplify the osteopathic profession’s voice on Capitol Hill, you can join the Osteopathic Advocacy Network (OAN), which can connect you with your lawmakers, their staff and other important groups that influence federal and state legislation. You will also have access to monthly virtual public policy roundtables that will dive deeper into upcoming important legislation.  You can join OAN here.

Editor’s note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of The DO or the AOA.

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