Physicians in the United States Congress

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Physicians in the United States Congress have been a small minority of the members of Congress, with fluctuating numbers over the years. The number of physicians serving and running for Congress has risen over the last 50 years from 5 in 1960, down to a nadir of 2 in 1990, to a maximum of 21 in 2013 and a decrease to 14 in 2017. Possible explanations for this development have been increasing health care spending, increased health care reform debate in the United States, leading up to the Healthcare Reform Act.

Contents

In public opinion research by the American Medical Association (AMA) from 2013, voters rated "understanding of the problems facing our healthcare industry, including the bureaucratic red tape that is strangling health care providers and driving up the cost of health care for most Americans" as the most convincing statement of a physician candidate for Congress. Physicians in Congress have received large campaign contributions from health care trade associations and from peers through physician associations such as the AMA.

History

In 1776, 11 percent of signers of the Declaration of Independence were physicians. [1] Likewise two (5 percent) of the 39 individuals crafting the US Constitution in 1787 were physicians. [2]

During the first 100 years of Congress (1789–1889) 252 (or 4.6 percent) of 5405 members were physicians. [3]

20th and 21st century

The number of physicians serving and running for Congress has risen over the last 50 years from 5 in 1960, down to 3 in 1970 and a nadir of 2 in 1990 up to 10 (2000) [3] to a maximum of 21, including one female physician, in 2013, [4] as of 2015, there were 18, and as of 2017 15 physicians. [5] and a small decrease to 15 in 2017.

Possible explanations for the increase since the 1990s have been increasing health care spending, [6] increased health care reform debate in the United States, leading up to the Healthcare Reform Act. [7]

Motivations

Tom Coburn said, "physicians have watched the profession undergo tremendous realignments that are shifting doctors' responsibilities away from patient care, changes they attribute to the government's inefficacy". [7] Jim McDermott was quoted as saying "They want to have their hands right there on the handle so they can pull it one way or another." [7] Physicians "balked at the idea of lawmakers with no medical experience making decisions that could upend the profession", per Andy Harris. [7]

Kelley Paul, wife of Rand Paul said in 2015 when he made his 2016 White House bid, "Being a physician gives Rand a unique perspective in Washington, simply because he's trained to diagnose a problem and find a solution." [8]

Party membership

In 2013, three quarters of physicians in Congress were Republican, [4] and 80% as of 2017. [5] As a possible reason Jim McDermott offered, "politically conservative physicians were more likely to chafe at the direction of changes in health care, with greater oversight by the government and a more regulated role for the private sector. It's a fundamental debate about what is in the public good." [7]

During the 2016 cycle the AMA political action committee spent $2 million with "direct contributions to 348 physician-friendly [Congressional] candidates (58% Republican and 46% Democratic)". [9]

Gender, geography and medical specialty

Of the 27 physicians in Congress since 2005, 93% have been men, which is in stark contrast to 70% male physicians in general, 63% were from the South (vs 35% of all Congressional members) and 26% were surgeons (vs 11% of all US physicians). [10]

Public opinion

In 2013, the AMA funded 3 focus groups of voters across the country and an online survey to research public opinion on physicians as Congressional candidates. The top scoring potential message for a physician was to link back to health care expertise "Because physicians work in health care on a daily basis, they bring a clear understanding of the problems facing our healthcare industry, including the bureaucratic red tape that is strangling health care providers and driving up the cost of health care for most Americans." [6]

Candidates, 2014

Senate candidates in 2014 included "an obstetrician in North Carolina, Milton R. Wolf, a radiologist in Kansas, a liver disease specialist in Louisiana, and Representatives Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey in Georgia, all of them Republicans. At least 26 more physicians were running for the House, some for re-election." per a New York Times article from March 2014. [7]

113th Congress (2013–2015)

From 2013 to 2015 there were 20 physicians in U.S.Congress, 19 of whom were male and 16 were members of the Republican party.

LegislatureNameParty-State-DistrictYear electedMedical specialty2012 campaign money raised
House Dan Benishek (R-MI-01)2010General surgery, retired$2,255,260 [11]
House Ami Bera (D-CA-07)2012Internal Medicine$1,373,106 [12]
House Charles Boustany (R-LA-03)2004Cardiothoracic surgery, retired$4,879,644 [13]
House Paul Broun (R-GA-10)2007Family Medicine$1,410,625 [14]
House Larry Bucshon (R-IN-08)2010Thoracic surgery$608,721 [15]
House Michael C. Burgess (R-TX-26)2010OB/GYN$613,280 [16]
House Bill Cassidy (R-LA)2008Gastroenterology$5,121,030 [17]
House Donna Christensen (D-Virgin Islands-AL)1996Emergency Medicine$330,274 [18]
House Scott DesJarlais (R-TN-04)2010General Practice$283,549 [19]
House John Fleming (R-LA-04)2008Family Medicine$698,596 [20]
House Phil Gingrey (R-GA-11)2002OB/GYN$1,530,373 [21]
House Andrew P. Harris (R-MD-01)2010Anesthesiology$1,689,833 [22]
House Joe Heck (R-NV-03)2010Emergency Medicine$1,117,768 [23]
House Jim McDermott (D-WA-07)1988Psychiatry$223,469 [24]
House Tom Price (R-GA-06)2004Orthopedic Surgery$1,375,428 [25]
House David "Phil" Roe (R-TN-01)2008OB/GYN$348,673 [26]
House Raul Ruiz (D-CA-36)2008Emergency Medicine$1,504,150 [27]
Senate John Barrasso (R-WY)2007Orthopedic Surgery$8,081,603 [28]
Senate Tom Coburn (R-OK)2004Family Medicine$2,100,328 † [29]
Senate Rand Paul (R-KY)2010Ophthalmology$9,942,744† [30]

† 2009/2012 cycle ††2013–2014 cycle

114th Congress (2015–2017)

From 2015 to 2017, there were 17 physicians in U.S. Congress. All were male and 14 were members of the Republican party.

LegislatureNameParty-State-DistrictYear electedMedical specialty2014 campaign money raised
House Ralph Abraham (R-LA-05)2014Family Medicine, Veterinarian$824,819 [31]
Senate John Barrasso (R-WY)2007Orthopedic Surgery$7,045,286 [32]
House Dan Benishek (R-MI-01)2010General surgery, retired$2,152,648 [33]
House Ami Bera (D-CA-07)2012Internal Medicine$4,410,225 [34]
House Charles Boustany (R-LA-03)2004Cardiothoracic surgery, retired$2,711,231 [35]
House Larry Bucshon (R-IN-08)2010Thoracic surgery$608,721 [15]
House Michael C. Burgess (R-TX-26)2010OB/GYN$613,280 [16]
Senate Bill Cassidy (R-LA)2014Gastroenterology$15,548,343 [17]
House Scott DesJarlais (R-TN-04)2010General Practice$283,549 [19]
House John Fleming (R-LA-04)2008Family Medicine$698,596 [20]
House Andrew P. Harris (R-MD-01)2010Anesthesiology$1,422,625 [36]
House Joe Heck (R-NV-03)2010Emergency Medicine$1,117,768 [23]
House Jim McDermott (D-WA-07)1988Psychiatry$223,469 [24]
House Tom Price (R-GA-06)2004Orthopedic Surgery$2,784,268 [37]
House David "Phil" Roe (R-TN-01)2008OB/GYN$933,431 [38]
House Raul Ruiz (D-CA-36)2012Emergency Medicine$3,439,977 [39]
Senate Rand Paul (R-KY)2010Ophthalmology$19,613,645 [40]

† 2009/2014 cycle

115th Congress (2017–2019)

From 2017 to 2019 there were 16 physicians in U.S. Congress, all were male and 14 were members of the Republican party. There was also one podiatrist, one dentist, and one optometrist. [5]

LegislatureNameParty-State-DistrictYear electedMedical specialty2016 campaign money raised
House Ralph Abraham (R-LA-05)2014Family Medicine, Veterinarian$577,493 [41]
Senate John Barrasso (R-WY)2007Orthopedic Surgery$6,677,705 [42]
House Ami Bera (D-CA-07)2012General practice$4,128,996 [43]
House Larry Bucshon (R-IN-08)2010Thoracic surgery$1,045,223 [44]
House Michael C. Burgess (R-TX-26)2002OB/GYN$1,857,590 [45]
Senate Bill Cassidy (R-LA)2014Gastroenterology$17,269,420 [46]
House Scott DesJarlais (R-TN-04)2010General Practice$637,783 [47]
House Neal Dunn (R-FL-02)2016Urology$1,968,334 [48]
House Andrew P. Harris (R-MD-01)2010Anesthesiology$1,402,664 [49]
House Roger Marshall (R-KS-01)2016Obstetrician$1,506,821 [50]
House Tom Price (R-GA-06)2004Orthopedic Surgery$2,769,758 [51]
House David "Phil" Roe (R-TN-01)2008OB/GYN$952,677 [52]
House Raul Ruiz (D-CA-36)2012Emergency Medicine$3,225,291 [53]
Senate Rand Paul (R-KY)2010Ophthalmology$12,105,270 [54]

116th Congress (2019–present)

LegislatureNameParty-State-DistrictYear electedMedical specialty
House Ralph Abraham (R-LA-05)2014Family Medicine, Veterinarian
Senate John Barrasso (R-WY)2007Orthopedic Surgery
House Ami Bera (D-CA-07)2012General practice
House Larry Bucshon (R-IN-08)2010Thoracic surgery
House Michael C. Burgess (R-TX-26)2002OB/GYN
Senate Bill Cassidy (R-LA)2014Gastroenterology
House Scott DesJarlais (R-TN-04)2010Family Medicine
House Neal Dunn (R-FL-02)2016Urology
HouseMark Green(R-TN-07)2018Emergency Medicine
House Andrew P. Harris (R-MD-01)2010Anesthesiology
HouseJohn Joyce(R-PA-09)2018Dermatology
House Roger Marshall (R-KS-01)2016OB/GYN
House Greg Murphy (R-NC-03)2019Urology
House David "Phil" Roe (R-TN-01)2008OB/GYN
House Raul Ruiz (D-CA-36)2012Emergency Medicine
House Kim Schrier (D-WA-08)2018Pediatrics
Senate Rand Paul (R-KY)2010Ophthalmology

Physicians in political positions outside Congress

Civilian:

Uniformed service, United States Armed Forces:

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