Waxman Reflects on Four Decades of Health Policy

October 27, 2014 —

When Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., was elected to the California State Assembly in 1968, he decided to specialize in health policy “so I could make the maximum difference.” On October 22, Waxman sat down with Georgetown Law Professor from Practice Timothy Westmoreland, one of his former congressional staff members, to discuss his four decades as a leader in health reform. 

“If one thinks about the modern history of health and health law … the congressman has been a leading force to really shape that law in the United States in so many different areas, from [safe drinking] water to tobacco to the Affordable Care Act,” said Professor Lawrence O. Gostin, who introduced the conversation. 

Waxman, who plans to retire from his 40-year career in Congress at the end of this year, has played a major role in writing or enacting such major health legislation as the Affordable Care Act, the Waxman-Hatch Generic Drug Act, the Nutrition Labeling Act, the Food Quality Protection Act and Medicaid expansions. 

“If we believe in equal opportunity, to advance as far as people can go, we have to recognize that there are some people, who because of disabilities or other factors in their life, don’t have that chance,” Waxman said. “We’ve got to provide a strong safety net.”

In his work with the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and its subcommittee on health, Waxman confronted tobacco executives on the question of whether nicotine was addictive. He also held dozens of hearings on AIDS in the 1980s. “One thing I learned, if you have something like this, or Ebola, follow the advice of the public health people, follow the science,” Waxman said. 

The event was sponsored by the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law as part of its fall colloquium and was covered by C-SPAN.

A webcast is available here. For coverage on C-SPAN, click here.


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