How Does Congress Affect Public Health?
The legislative process consists of two parts: authorizing legislation and appropriations.
Every bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives or U.S. Senate is assigned to one or more authorizing committees. Authorizing committees consider legislation to establish, continue, or modify a government agency or program, and authorize the enactment of appropriations.
Authorizations may be temporary or permanent, and their provisions may be general or specific, but they do not themselves provide funding in the absence of appropriations committee action. Authorizing committees or subcommittees may ask the relevant executive agencies for comments on legislation, hold hearings to gather information about legislation, meet to consider legislation and amend it through the "mark-up" process, and pass legislation to the full committee for consideration. After bills pass out of committee they either go to other authorizing committees of jurisdiction or the chamber floor for passage.
Important Committees for Public Health
In the House of Representatives, the main health authorizing committees are the following:
The Energy and Commerce Committee has jurisdiction over Medicaid, Medicare Part B and D and discretionary public health programs. The Ways and Means Committee oversees the entire Medicare program. Each of these committees has health subcommittees.
In the Senate, the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee considers public health legislation. Its subcommittees include: Children and Families, Employment and Workplace Safety and Primary Health and Aging.
The Senate Finance Committee has jurisdiction over the Medicare and Medicaid programs.