Doctors in Congress

When new members of Congress are sworn in this January, there will be a total of 19 doctors in Congress – 3 Senators and 16 Congresspersons. That will be a 27% increase over 2009,from 15 to 19, in doctor members of Congress. These doctors will make up 3.5% of the 535 members of Congress, but will fall far short of the 10.7% who were signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Eighteen of the 19 new members are Republican. This may say something of the mood of America towards health reform, but it may have little effect on whether the health reform bill is repealed or retained in its present form.

Fifteen of the 19 are from the South or West, 5 are Ob-Gyn specialists, and 12 represent specialties who perform surgery. What this means or portends I do not know. Perhaps they will not hesitate to perform surgery on the bloated national budget and cut deficits. I take solace in recent polls, which indicate 77% of the public trust doctors to do right thing vs. 11% who trust Congress.

Here is the list of the 19 doctors in Congress:

Senate Incumbents

  1. Tom Coburn (R, Republican), Oklahoma, family physician and ob-gyn
  2. John Barasso (R, Wyoming), orthopedic surgeon New Senator
  3. Rand Paul, (R, Kentucky), ophthalmologist

House Incumbents

  1. John Boustany ( R, Louisiana), cardiovascular surgeon
  2. John Fleming (R, Louisiana), family physician
  3. Bill Cassidy (R, Louisiana), gastroenterologist
  4. Tom Price, (R, Georgia), orthopedic surgeon
  5. Paul Brown (R, Georgia), family physician
  6. Phil Gingrey(R,Georgia), Ob-Gyn
  7. Ron Paul (R, Texas), Ob-Gyn
  8. Michael Burgess(R, Texas), Ob-Gyn
  9. David “Phil” Roe (R, Tennessee), Ob-Gyn
  10. Jim McDermott (D, Washington), psychiatrist

New House members

  1. Larry Bucshon (R, Indiana), thoracic surgeon
  2. Andy Harris (R, Maryland), anesthesiologist
  3. Dan Benishek (R, Michigan), general surgeon
  4. Nan Hayworth (R, New York), ophthalmologist
  5. Scott DesJaris (R, Tennessee), family physician
  6. Joe Heck (R., Nevada). emergency room physician

Richard L. Reece, MD, is pathologist, editor, author, speaker, innovator, and believer in abilities of practicing doctors and their patients to control and improve their health destinies through innovation. He is author of eleven books. Dr. Reece posts frequently at his blog, Medinnovation.

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21 replies »

  1. You do jest, of course. These people are making some very bad medical policy affecting primarily women and children. These same policies take away the liberties of the female patient and lately of the physician.

    Since when is it alright to be lied to by your physician about anything? Then to protect the same lying physician from lawsuit. This is the US of A not The Third Reich.

    It would suit me if they could be sued for malpractice – giving out wholesale medical advice for a woman whose life might well be in jeopardy by taking decisions away from her and her physician.

    Liberty denied some is liberty denied all. (We are not talking about
    criminals here, we are talking about citizens who are supposed to have equal rights.)

  2. I would like to know what help each of these doctors received from the AMA to get elected. I accidentally stumbled accross a web site a few years ago for the Washington State AMA that advertised itself as a school to help doctors get elected to office. What was the curriculum and world view of that training I wonder. More raving anti-communism and anti-government like we heard from the AMA in the first half of the 20th century like when they fought against the passage of Medicare? Now that Medicare has firmly established the fee for services system they are against repealing FFS! How ironic. It’s all about money and power with this group, not doing the right thing for their patients.

  3. As a physician, I can assure you that getting rid of frivolous suits can only help the situation.

  4. The people entering the medical field make huge sacrifices so they can get rich. Perhaps it’s a tough way but that’s a personal choice. Odd that this country under it’s crappy corporate system requires almost twice as long to become a M.D. as most european nations. And the U.S. healthcare system is one of the worst in the industrialized world. Medical Doctors in the USA for the most part are nothing more than drug salesmen.

    As for tort reform: Put a limit on damages and there will be far more damges to patients. The courts are presently our only defense against medical butchers.

  5. @Fat Bastard

    You are merely another example of someone so perniciously selfish and jealous that you cannot abide doctors making a good living for the incredible sacrifices they make to enter the medical field. To say that doctors in the GOP deserve rectal cancer…you are so despicable I cannot adequately express my disgust for you.

  6. Doctors are a big part of the reason health care in the US stinks. I hope the GOP doctors in CONgress all get rectal cancer and suffer suffer suffer. They deserve it and worse.

  7. In Louisiana, there are special procedures which must be followed in
    medical malpractice lawyer louisiana . For example, in Louisiana, a claim must be filed with the State before a lawsuit can be filed. This claim is then reviewed by a panel of three Louisiana doctors, who give an opinion about whether any health care provider .Only after the panel has reached its decision can a lawsuit be filed. There are many complicated details to this Louisiana panel procedure, and many traps for the inexperienced Louisiana attorney.

  8. With doctors in Congress–perhaps we can get true health care reform: All U.S. citizens should have the same health care as each member of Congress….afterall, it is the taxpayers who subsidize their health care premiums, no? Does anyone in Congress reject the Government health care policy system and pay for their own? I doubt it.

  9. “Hell, being more aggressive on fraud in Medicare/Medicaid would yield more savings.”
    Another wonderful argument for saving money, start going after any and all providers who are considered frauds per billings. Google how this has been so effective and responsible, having harassed responsible and appropriate providers for not doting an ‘i’ or mistakenly put in the wrong code, codes that the GOVERNMENT keep changing on us.
    And the lawyers doing this work will do it pro bono? Yeah, now there is a realistic thought!!!
    Pay attention who advocates for these kind of mindless quick fixes, as they aren’t so realistic as a blanket solution. Yes, fraud is out there and needs to be addressed, but ruining the careers of multiple providers because of a couple of thousand dollar errors? And the scum who are getting away with million dollar schemes for years who get missed by this alleged monitoring system?
    “Let’s find someone to sue/jail.” Solutions by politicians, who, how conveniently, are often lawyers before retiring to DC. Hey, who is responsibly monitoring the legal system? Tired of reading about crooked judges, irresponsible lawyers, lawyers who dump clients as soon as payments aren’t made, bureaucracy that screws up civil matters that cost people lots of money inappropriately ? Now there is a reliable and respectable profession/system!!!
    Just the right answer to handle health care matter!

  10. The only meaningful way to control health care spending is to illuminate how we are spending the money now. To my mind that means publishing on the internet the amount of public money paid to each medical provider per patient per year, addressed to the now required universal billing number. This will give the health care provider some idea when they walk into a doctor’s office if it is selling Mercedes or Kias. This would also delineate which primary care providers are referring their patients to cost conscious specialists and which are referring to those who own immense imaging systems and perhaps subsidize in some way those who refer to them. Those who perform 20 cardiac surgeries a day, or hundreds of sinus surgeries or own orthopedic hospitals that do multiple questionable procedures and others who are written up in articles in The Wall Street Journal or Vanity Fair and make us all more greedy or more distrustful of the whole system.

  11. Tort reform (or at least the GOP version where you have a $250k hard cap on pain and suffering) will do next to nothing to slow healthcare costs or to benefit doctors or patients. Hell, being more aggressive on fraud in Medicare/Medicaid would yield more savings.

  12. Readers, just watch out for the legal advocates here who want to dismiss and demean realistic calls for tort reform, because their lobby will be affected by it.
    How fascinating, and equally repugnant, that there are those who so overty project their greedy agenda onto all physicians as the bad guys, yet have no negative commentary about the role lawyers play in this debacle of health care expenses.
    Unfortunately, narcissism does not discriminate in professions as well. I rest my case!

  13. “To be sure, I do not “know” with “absolute certainty” what tort reform would do for patients or if it would reduce their premiums. But, based on the Kessler and McClellan estimate of a 5% to 9% reduction in medical expenditures, there is reasonable chance these costs reductions could ripple down to reduced patient premiums.”
    Show me in states (including TX) that have tort reform where this occurs? There is no trickle down – Reagan Myth.

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  15. Sorry: in my post above, I meant to say that conventional tort reform is small potatoes even using the Kessler McClellan numbers. I managed to stick in a ‘not’ by accident.

  16. Thanks for responding. There was a paper in Health Affairs by Michelle Mello that took the Kessler McClellan estimates and showed that it resulted in a max saving of 45-50b dollars. See here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20820010
    The Texas number that you cite is a little misleading: you need to also tell your readers that the growth rate of premiums fell everywhere (ie, not just in Texas). My point is not that conventional tort reform is small potatoes. The physicians in Congress will cite the same papers and numbers that you have, but if you do the extrapolation more carefully, it doesn’t get you much.

  17. Dear Richard D. Thank you for your comment. I appreciate it.
    But I have a question: How do you “know” with certainty that tort reform “will do absolutely nothing for patients and premiums.” “Absolutely nothing” strikes me as a sweeping conclusion. Based on what evidence?
    According to Towers Perrin, medical malpractice, including legal-defense costs and claims payment, cost the health system $30.41 billion in 2007. In 2003, HHS estimated that limits on malpractice awards could cost between $70 billion and $128 billion. In A 2008 report, the CBO said limiting malpractice awards would tend to limit malpractice spending. In Texas, which enacted malpractice caps in 2003-2005, liability rates have fallen 27.5% on average.
    The costs of “defensive medicine,” the ordering of unnecessary tests in anticipation of a possible future malpractice suit, are unknown, but a study in JAMA FROM the University of Pennsylvania indicated 59% of high-liability specialists said they ordered unnecessary tests for defensive purposes. In 1996, David Kessler and Mark McClellan,writing in the Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, estimated defensive medicine costs between $100 billion and $178 billion, 3.4 to 6.8 times the cost of defending malpractice suites, paying compensation, and covering administrative costs.
    To be sure, I do not “know” with “absolute certainty” what tort reform would do for patients or if it would reduce their premiums. But, based on the Kessler and McClellan estimate of a 5% to 9% reduction in medical expenditures, there is reasonable chance these costs reductions could ripple down to reduced patient premiums.

  18. 3 Senators in senate, which is only 3 percent is not very encouraging. America needs more doctors as their representatives in Congress and Senate for better health care system and delivery.

  19. Thanks for sharing this information. I don’t see this as a positive development, as specialty physicians are much more likely to support the status quo which favors specialty and invasive care reimbursement vs primary care. I would be shocked if they are willing to tackle the issue of primary care shortages given the implications for their own reimbursement.

  20. I thought it interesting that almost all of the physicians in Congress are Republicans. From that I infer that they also support conventional ‘tort reforms’ as the panacea for cost-growth in healthcare. I’m not a physician but I know that this set of reforms will do absolutely nothing for patients and premiums.