Normally, the retirement of a member of Congress representing a district nearly 2,000 miles from Massachusetts would not be mentioned on this blog. But Congressman Henry Waxman’s announcement today that he will be leaving public life at the end of this year is a notable exception.
During his 40 (yes, 40!) years in the House of Representatives, there was scarcely any piece of health care legislation that did not have his fingerprints on it. As Chairman of the Health and the Environment Subcommittee, Waxman held the first hearings into the emerging HIV/AIDS crisis, exposed deceitful practices by the tobacco industry, and authored legislation that created the generic drug industry.
Expanding health coverage was a passion. He is responsible for expanding Medicaid coverage to millions of low income children, pregnant women, and seniors, and along with our own Senator Ted Kennedy, he worked to ensure that children of working families had health coverage through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
In 2009, Congressman Waxman became chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, giving him a pivotal role in an effort to achieve one of his lifelong goals: guaranteeing that all Americans would have access to health insurance through the Affordable Care Act.
One would be hard pressed to find a more effective or dedicated policy maker to the principle that the health care system must work for consumers. In countless ways, Massachusetts residents have benefited from the work of a congressman from California. Our country is a better place for his efforts and Congress will have very large shoes to fill when he leaves.
(Full disclosure: I had the incredible honor and privilege to work for Congressman Waxman from 1999-2002 as a junior aide in his Washington office.)