Surge Of M.D.s Into Politics Shows Doctors Aren’t Fans Of ObamaCare

Do doctors like ObamaCare? Judging by the number of doctors who are running for Congress in opposition to it, the answer would appear to be a resounding no.

By our count, 42 doctors (counting 35 M.D.s, five dentists, an optometrist and a psychologist) are running for one of the 435 House seats or 37 Senate seats at stake in the upcoming midterm elections. Far fewer than one in 100 Americans are doctors, yet one in 12 races for Congress now involves a doctor. And that’s even without counting third-party candidates in the tally.

Most striking, however, is the party composition of these doctors: 34 are Republicans, while only eight are Democrats. Correspondingly, 34 oppose ObamaCare, while only eight support it. And 33 support ObamaCare’s repeal. (One wants to try to repair it.)

So, at least among the folks running for federal office, four out of five doctors recommend repeal.

But didn’t the AMA endorse ObamaCare? Yes, but the views of these office-seeking doctors suggest how little that endorsement was a reflection of the actual views of the AMA’s (dwindling) membership. Indeed, the AMA’s endorsement was more likely motivated by a desire to preserve its monopoly over billing codes used for Medicare and other insurance payments than by a desire to reflect the views of its members.

As the Chicago Tribune has reported, “a once-secret deal, struck in the early 1980s” between the federal government and the AMA “allowed the government to streamline billing procedures for its insurance programs by setting a single code … as the standard.” The AMA maintains and updates these codes at no cost to the government but, according to the Tribune, “generates millions each year selling the code books and software licenses to doctors and insurers.”

Under ObamaCare, that monopoly would be preserved. One can only speculate about whether it would have been preserved had the AMA instead opposed ObamaCare — and about how clearly the Obama administration might have spelled out the ramifications of the AMA’s decision.

The AMA needs this billing-code revenue, as its membership dues are down. Most estimates suggest that only about one of six practicing doctors is now a member of the once-proud AMA. Furthermore, based on figures released by the AMA in 2007, only one-third of its members have finished with their residency and are under 55 years of age.

As a member of the AMA House of Delegates put it in 2007, “We have a lot of students and a lot of old docs, but not a lot of practicing physicians.”

They have even fewer now that they have allied themselves with ObamaCare. MedPage Today reports that between the summer of 2009, when the AMA endorsed the health-care overhaul, to this summer, in the wake of ObamaCare’s passage, the AMA lost approximately 21,000, or nearly 10%, of its membership.

This result isn’t entirely surprising. During the lead-up to ObamaCare’s passage, a survey by Sermo — an online network of doctors whose membership numbers among practicing physicians now rival or even surpass those of the AMA — found that “91% of physicians surveyed do not believe the AMA accurately reflects their opinion as physicians.”

This growing disconnect has led doctors to abandon the organization that has traditionally represented them. But the AMA’s loss is the Tea Party’s gain. Politico writes: “Health professionals … have quietly become the biggest supporters of the nascent Tea Party Caucus, a movement by and large catalyzed by opposition to the health reform law. They donated a little more than $2.7 million to Tea Party Caucus members, making them the group’s most supportive industry.”

Some doctors aren’t merely supporting political movements but are running for office themselves. And 81% of them support the repeal of ObamaCare.

It’s good to see doctors getting engaged in the crucial fight for the repeal of ObamaCare, which will dominate our political landscape at least through the next presidential election. And as the GOP develops proposals for real reform, these doctors can help ensure that those will — in complete contrast to ObamaCare — be based on a core maxim of medicine: First, do no harm.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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