Doctors in the House…and Senate

November 20, 2008
Special Feature

When the 111th Congress is sworn in on January 3, at least 14 doctors will be included: 12 in the House of Representatives and 2 in the Senate.

When the 111th Congress is sworn in on January 3, at least 14 doctors will be included: 12 in the House of Representatives and 2 in the Senate. Based on numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, that’s one member of Congress for every 50,000 doctors in the US, making the medical profession, in the opinion of many doctors, an under-represented segment of the American public.

The 2008 election scorecard for doctor candidates looks fairly positive, though. All nine doctors who ran for reelection to the House kept their seats, and they were joined by three newcomers. In the Senate, one doctor was not up for reelection, and another won a special election to fill out an unexpired term. In Maryland, a doctor running for a seat in the House lost an extremely close race, joining 14 other physicians who ran and lost. Doctors do have a chance to add one more representative to the House roster, however, if an MD candidate wins next month in a Louisiana election that was delayed because of Hurricane Gustav.

Don’t expect these physicians to become a solid voting bloc anytime soon, however; 10 are Republicans and four are Democrats. The issue that comes closest to a consensus is a proposal to move Medicare payments away from a fee-for-service model, an idea that both President-elect Barack Obama and his opponent John McCain espoused. Many doctors, including most of those in Congress, are leery of any Congressional tinkering with how they get paid by Medicare.