2003-01-04 / Columnists

Chatting With Chapey

By Dr. Geraldine M. Chapey

By Dr. Geraldine M. Chapey,
Democratic District Leader

Senior Health Care: Will Frist Help?

Last week Senator Bill Frist, a Republican from Tennessee, was chosen as the Senate Majority Leader.  He is the first practicing medical physician to be elected to a spot in the Senate since 1928.  He was initially elected to the Senate in 1994.

Senator Frist has strong ties to our northeastern area because he graduated from Princeton University.  During the time that I was earning my doctorate at Rutgers, I spent a considerable amount of time in the library at Princeton.  There are many academic ties between Rutgers and Princeton because of their close geographic proximity.

Frist attributes his interest in science and public policy to his training at Princeton.  He spent two years there studying public policy when he was a student at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy and International Affairs.  He has publicly acknowledged that this early training encouraged him to combine science and public policy.  He then went from Princeton to Harvard Medical School where he developed his specialization as a heart and lung transplant surgeon.

He has maintained strong ties to Princeton through serving on the University's Board of Trustees from 1974 to 1978 and again from 1991 to 2001.

In November 2001, Frist lectured at Princeton on the impact of the September 11th WTC terror attack on the U. S. economy.  He has become a vocal authority on public health issues as they relate to bioterrorism.  In the Senate, Bill Frist is the Republican ranking member on the Subcommittee on Public Health and on the Subcommittee on African Affairs.  He is also serving on the following Senate Committees: health, education, foreign relations, labor and pensions and the budget committee.

Princeton University dedicated its Frist Campus Center in October 2000, naming the Center after Senator Frist, his father and several other family members who have attended Princeton.  On February 22, 2003 Frist will receive the Wilson Award from his Alma Mater and speak on "The Floor of the U. S. Senate as the Operating Theater: Is Transplanting Ideas Any Different From Transplanting Hearts?"

Will Bill Frist lead the charge for Medicare reform for seniors from his new position?

According to the December 26, 2002 edition of the Wall Street Journal "farmers, steel makers and timber producers receive heavy subsidies for their wares.  Now there is an increased likelihood that seniors will get their share. 

Senator Frist will be very likely to push for a senior Medicare drug benefit for three reasons:  (1) as a physician/Senator he has a strong interest in health issues  (2) he can use the senior Medicare drug benefit as a popular issue that will define his new leadership  (3) senior Medicare drug benefits have long been a strong democratic issue.  Two thirds of Americans needing drugs are seniors.  By passing a senior drug benefit package Frist hopes to attract many senior Democratic voters over to the Republican side of the aisle.  In the Senate, Bill Frist will be looking and will probably receive bipartisan support for this senior drug benefit.

According to the Wall Street Journal, pharmaceutical companies, drug distributors and pharmacy benefit managers will all profit from this.  This would be a WIN / WIN situation.


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