There are, The Hill reports, 11 Republican doctors running for the Senate in 2014. These are candidates "well poised to hammer home" the party's arguments against Obamacare, the paper argues. The examples The Hill uses to demonstrate its point: Reps. Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey, hardly exemplars of sober contemplation.
House Republicans don white doc coats for press conference abt NIH funding. pic.twitter.com/sYrlUzfCgR— Nancy Cordes (@nancycordes) October 3, 2013
There's no doubt that the broader point is correct. If the GOP wants to run against Obamacare, who better than doctors to raise questions about health care coverage? During the government shutdown in October, a number of the GOP's sitting medical professionals held a press conference to critique cuts to funding the National Institutes of Health — cuts that went into place once the anti-Obamacare shutdown began.
And The Hill has congressional doctors ready to offer their thoughts on the subject. “Doctors are in a very unique position to look at the financing of healthcare,” Rep. Broun of Georgia, a general practitioner, told the paper. Gingrey of Texas, an OB-GYN, went a bit farther down the path: "They don’t want to practice for the government, they want to practice for their patients." There are a few things worth pulling out of those quotes — are doctors experts in national health care financing? Is Obamacare a step toward single-payer? But we'll just note that Broun and Gingrey, representatives seeking Senate seats, have in the past somewhat undermined their own expertise on the topic.
Broun (named one of the "most corrupt" members of Congress by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) is known for espousing unusual opinions on medicine and science. Broun told CNN's Wolf Blitzer in October, "Obamacare is going to destroy everything we know as a nation. Wolf, I’m a doctor. I’m a medical doctor!" Last October, Broun argued against evolution:
God’s word is true. I’ve come to understand that. All that stuff I was taught about evolution, embryology, Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell. … There’s a lot of scientific data that I found out as a scientist that actually show that this is really a young Earth.
National Journal called him "the most dangerous man in Republican politics," which is the sort of appellation that might undermine his insights into electoral strategy.
As for Gingrey, he's best known for his defense of 2012 Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin. Akin, who said that the female body had ways of "shutting down" pregnancy in the event of rape, was "partly right" according to Gingrey — who, again, is an OB/GYN. Or, rather, he was best known for that. Shortly before the shutdown, he became famous for saying that he envied his staffers who could go become highly-paid lobbyists when he was "stuck here making $172,000."
Somewhat weirdly, The Hill implies that doctors are sort of rare in Washington. "It’s not unusual for doctors to seek elected office. But it’s not necessarily typical for them to win, however," Alexandra Jaffe writes, basing that latter sentiment largely on the loss of Richard Carmona in Arizona last year. But there are 19 physicians in the House and Senate, plus two dentists, two vets, a psychiatrist, three psychologists, an optometrist, and five nurses. Some of whom, we will note, were involved in the original debate over Obamacare.
The Hill does note one advantage that may have helped those doctors win.
A 2012 Gallup survey rated medical doctors as the third most-trustworthy profession, below only nurses and pharmacists. … In contrast, members of Congress were second from the bottom, considered more trustworthy than only car salespeople.
Broun and Gingrey, once professional doctors, are clearly now better understood as members of Congress. Somewhat diluting the value of their insights.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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