Saturday, November 27, 2004

Georgia's Medical Delegation...
From today's Atlanta Journal-Constitution : Georgia adds 4 to Congress' medicine chest
There's a doctor in the House. More than one, in fact, and two in the Senate.

With three physicians winning office in this year's congressional elections, including one from Georgia, there will be more doctors and dentists in Congress than at any time in the last four decades.

Georgia, with two physicians and two dentists among its 13 House members, now has more medical personnel serving on Capitol Hill than any other state.

Cobb County alone has two physician-lawmakers, both Republicans.

Rep. Phil Gingrey, a Marietta obstetrician, won a second term to represent the 11th District. Tom Price, a Roswell surgeon, was elected this month to represent the 4th District, which includes part of Cobb County as well as north Fulton and parts of Cherokee and DeKalb counties.

Georgia's dentists in Congress are Reps. John Linder of Gwinnett County and Charlie Norwood of Evans, an Augusta suburb. Both are Republicans.

Given the increased government involvement in health care issues, a trend seems to be growing:
The sudden bounty of doctors on Capitol Hill is no coincidence, according to candidates and political analysts. With the federal government increasingly involved in medical matters, from stem cell research to malpractice lawsuit reforms, physicians are finding new incentives to take a leading role in the political debate.

"Physicians are becoming more politically astute. They have been woefully inadequate in that regard in the past," said Gingrey, who traveled the country campaigning for several medical colleagues running for office this year.

Two researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Chadd Kraus and Thomas Suarez, concluded in a new study that more doctors may be led to step into the political arena in the years ahead: "The current need for physician leadership in shaping health care is especially important."

The government's Medicare and Medicaid health care programs heavily influence doctor compensation.

Governmental oversight of the insurance industry and prescription-drug development also plays a significant role in health care options......

.....When the 109th Congress convenes in January, there will be at least 11 doctors and three dentists among the 535 lawmakers, the most since at least 1960. All but two of them are Republicans.

They include the Senate majority leader, Dr. Bill Frist of Tennessee.

Another doctor, Charles Boustany of Louisiana, is in a runoff for a House seat that will be decided Dec. 4 and could raise the total of doctors and dentists in Congress to 15.

Kraus and Suarez, in their study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on Nov. 3, the day after the general election, said the recent increase in physician-lawmakers "may be indicative of a shift toward more direct influence of physicians in national politics."
Given the state of affairs today hopefully most of their efforts will be oriented towards tort reform. Physicians once upon a time were much more involved in politics on a national level:
Doctors accounted for 11 percent of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and 5 percent of the men who hammered out the U.S. Constitution, according to the researchers.

In the first 50 U.S. congresses, between 1789 and 1889, roughly 5 percent were doctors, the study found. That compares to 1 percent now.
Still not equal to the number of lawyers, however:
Lawyers continue to dominate Capitol Hill much as they dominate state legislatures. About 235 of the 535 members of Congress have law degrees. Since 1960, nearly 45 percent of the people who served in Congress are lawyers.

"I do think there are a few too many lawyers," Gingrey said. "That really has hurt us on the tort reform issue."

Amen to that.
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