Axios Health “Lunch with a Lobbyist” Series with Mike Gaffin


We’re back again with another lunch feature, this time with Smith-Free health lobbyist Michael Gaffin.

  1. He recently sat down with Victoria at Bobby Van’s Grill to enjoy a Chinese chicken salad and chat about what he sees as Democrats’ next moves for health care.
  1. Gaffin is a senior vice president at Smith-Free and held several positions on the Hill, serving as a Senate HELP Committee staffer under Sen. Edward Kennedy and then-Rep. Rob Andrews’ legislative director when the ACA was being written.

Democrats’ next move on health care: Democrats accomplished their biggest health care policy goal in a decade, realistically last year, right? I mean getting the IRA done, including drug pricing reform in that bill is a massive legislative accomplishment. What’s next?

  1. One, I’m sure at some point, is broadening the field of drugs that can be negotiated through CMS.
  2. [Two], if we’re really talking about Democrats’ No. 1 goal as a party at this point, it’s the implementation of IRA and making sure that gets done prior to the 2024 election.

Longest night on the Hill: The markup of the ACA that was in Ed and Labor that went overnight.

  1. We did shifts that night. I lived in Navy Yard, but at the time no one else lived there. I remember going home in the middle of night, taking a shower, and then going to the McDonald’s, the only thing in Navy Yard, and bringing breakfast back for the rest of the staff that morning.

Best health care negotiator: Certainly most accomplished is Speaker Pelosi with an assist by Mr. [Wendell] Primus. You have the two most influential Democratic-led health care bills that were done both under very difficult circumstances.

  1. If we’re going to go old school and the Republican Party, I would go with Bill Thomas. I think he was tough, but fair. Had great staff and was as comfortable negotiating with Tom DeLay as he was [with] Ted Kennedy.

Health policy hill you’ll die on: It’s just my belief that for-profit health care isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I mean, there are plenty of great examples of innovators in the health care space who’ve come from the for-profit side and changed delivery, access and care.

1 fun fact: As a big golfer, I was upset I wasn’t on Golf Digest’s list of top 100 golfers for 2023. I think the list was incomplete this year! (Gaffin has been previously listed on other top golf lists.)

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