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January 05, 2011

112th Congress: New Medically Trained Members and New Agenda

Congress Freshman Class 
Today is a new day on Capitol Hill.  Today, we will witness once again the peaceful transfer of power in the US House of Representatives.  The Republicans come in with a comfortable 49 seat majority in the house and the Democrats 19 vote majority in the Senate is now a 7 vote majority.

Health care reform—or at least attempts to repeal health care reform—will be a top priority for Republicans as they take control of the House today as Congress begins its new session. In fact, incoming House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) told Politico this weekend that “the new Republican-controlled House plans to schedule a vote to repeal the sweeping health care overhaul before President Barack Obama delivers his annual State of the Union address late this month.  Currently that vote is scheduled for January 12th.

Noting that Affordable Care Act (ACA) only passed in the House last March by seven votes, Mr. Upton predicted to Fox News Sunday that there will be a “significant number of Democrats” that will join the 242 Republicans in the House to repeal the ACA. Consequently, one powerful resource that Republicans will likely take advantage of is a gain in the number of members in Congress who have medical training.

While Republicans in the House speculate about repealing the bill, or alternatively, repealing certain provisions, Democrats still have a majority in the Senate, meaning that Republicans would have to convince several Democrats to change their votes. Below are brief summaries about the new members of the House and Senate and their political and medical backgrounds.

U.S. Senate

The Senate will gain two more Senators with medical training, bringing the total to four (4), including Senators John Barrasso, MD (R-WY), Tom Coburn, MD (R-OK), Rand Paul, MD (R-KY), and John Boozman, OD (R-AR),

Senator Rand Paul, MD (R-KY)

Dr. Rand Paul is the son of current Congressman and former presidential candidate Ron Paul (R-TX). He graduated from Duke Medical School in 1988. He then completed a general surgery internship at Georgia Baptist Medical Center in Atlanta and completed his residency in ophthalmology at Duke University Medical Center. Upon completion of his training in 1993, Rand moved to Bowling Green and began his ophthalmology practice, where he has practiced medicine and performed eye surgery for 17 years. In 1995, Rand founded the Southern Kentucky Lions Eye Clinic, an organization that provides eye exams and surgery to needy families and individuals. According to his website, Dr. Paul supports:

  • Making all medical expenses tax deductible
  • Eliminating federal regulations that discourage small businesses from providing coverage;
  • Giving doctors the freedom to collectively negotiate with insurance companies and drive down the cost of medical care; and
  • Making every American eligible for a Health Savings Account (HSA), and removing the requirement that individuals must obtain a high-deductible insurance policy before opening an HSA.

Senator John Boozman, OD (R-AR)

Prior to his election to the U.S. Senate, Dr. John Boozman served as a U.S. Representative for Arkansas's 3rd congressional district, serving from 2001-2011. He graduated from the Southern College of Optometry in 1977 and entered private practice that same year co-founding a family business with his brother that would ultimately become a key provider of eye care to Northwest Arkansas. As a healthcare provider for over 20 years, Dr. Boozman understands the need for healthcare reform and he knows firsthand the difficulties patients, physicians and hospitals are going through when it comes to accessibility and affordability of healthcare services.

As a Congressman, he voted against the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and supports its repeal. According to his website, Dr. Boozman seeks to improve care and create affordable access through free-market reforms such as:

  • Opening up competition
  • Allowing us all to buy insurance across state lines; and
  • Letting small businesses pool their resources to get the best health care plans for their employees

Dr. Boozman believes that spending over $1 trillion of taxpayer money, Obamacare breaks the bank, raises taxes, increases premiums, opens the door to a government takeover of our personal and private health care choices and cuts Medicare programs without doing anything to contain costs. He further believes that the new government mandates in Obamacare threaten jobs, reduce wages, and stunt economic growth.

As a former optometrist, Dr. Boozman knows that the patient-provider relationship is essential and that bureaucrats should not be the ones making decisions on your health needs. Growing his clinic from a staff of 5 to 85, he knows employers must have the ability to offer their employees health care at low prices and should not be in fear of government mandates.

Additionally, as a member of the U.S. House GOP Doctors Caucus, Dr. Boozman has worked to advance real free-market healthcare reform that gives citizens more control over their money and treatment while driving down the cost of care and preserving the doctor-patient relationship. He also supports the expansion of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and Flexible Spending so that people have more control over their money and their treatment.

U.S. House of Representatives

In the House, the 112th Congress will have three more Representatives who are doctors, bringing the total to nineteen (19).

Dan Benishek, MD, (R-MI) general surgeon from Michigan; Replacing Bart Stupak

Larry Bucshon, MD, (R-IN) an Indiana cardio-thoracic surgeon, Navy Reserve;

Scott DesJarlais, MD, (R-TN) a Tennessee general practitioner;

Andy Harris, MD, (R-MD) an anesthesiologist and Army Reservist in Maryland;

Nan Hayworth, MD, (R-NY) a New York ophthalmologist.

Joe Heck, DO, (R-NV) a Nevada emergency physician, Army Reserve, owner, medical education company;

Renee Ellmers, RN, (R-NC) a North Carolina nurse;

Diane Black, RN,  (R-TN) a Tennessee emergency room nurse;

Paul Gosar, DDS, (R-AZ) a dentist in Arizona;

 Rep. Dan Benishek, MD (R-MI)

Dr. Dan Benishek graduated from Wayne State Medical School in 1978. He has served as a general surgeon in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula since 1983. By serving as a physician and surgeon for over 25 years for a principally rural population, Dr. Benishek recognizes the fact that a one-size-fits-all federal solution cannot accommodate the unique and diverse health care challenges facing Northern Michigan.

On his website and during his campaign, he promises to repeal ObamaCare and replace it with a bill allowing health insurance to be tax deductible, portable, and sold across state lines. He also supports tort reform and innovative scientific research.

He also supports initiatives that would allow individuals the freedom to manage their own health needs through Flexible Savings Accounts (FSAs) and Medical Savings Accounts (MSAs). Dr. Benishek supports boosting funding for community health centers and establishing stronger public-private partnerships for safety-net providers and hospitals in underserved communities.

In addition, he believes that the current tax exclusion should be replaced with a system of universal tax credits for taxpayers, and that efforts should be made to help low-income individuals and families purchase private health insurance.

Finally, Dr. Benishek believes that States should structure a patient-based marketplace for health insurance and expand affordable health care options for their citizens, including setting up pooling arrangements to protect persons with pre-existing conditions, while not unduly burdening taxpayers. He also believes the federal government should promote interstate commerce in health insurance, extend certain protections for those who maintain continuous coverage, and provide states with technical assistance and relief from federal rules that inhibit innovation.

Rep. Larry Bucshon, MD (R-IN)

Dr. Larry Bucshon attended medical school at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Following medical school he completed a residency at the Medical College of Wisconsin, where he served as chief resident in surgery, and then remained there to complete a fellowship in cardiothoracic surgery. He also enlisted with the United States Navy Reserve and served with them for almost a decade.

Dr. Bucshon has spent his career specializing in cardiothoracic surgery and has performed hundreds of heart surgeries. He has served as President of Ohio Valley HeartCare, the tri-state region’s most comprehensive cardiology and cardiovascular surgery practice. He also serves as Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery and Medical Director of the open heart recovery intensive care unit at St. Mary’s Hospital. He is board certified in Cardiothoracic Surgery by the American Board of Thoracic Surgery.

According to his website, Dr. Bucshon does not support the Affordable Care Act. Through his experience as a cardiothoracic surgeon for 14 years, he believes that the best way to lower health care costs is to:

  • Pursue meaningful Tort Reform
  • Expand Healthcare Savings Account eligibility
  • Employee pooling to create larger, more competitive buying groups
  • Remove denial of insurance based on preexisting conditions
  • Protect Seniors from Medicare cuts
  • Apply the following principles to our health care solution:
  • Expanded choices of doctors, hospitals, and health plans
  • Greater tax fairness and simplification
  • Remove barriers to choice and competition by allowing individuals and companies to purchase health insurance across state lines
  • Demand greater transparency insurance price disclosure

Rep. Scott DesJarlais, MD (R-TN)

Dr. Scott DesJarlais received his Doctor of Medicine from the University of South Dakota School of Medicine. He has been practicing medicine in Tennessee for almost two decades, seeing patients at the Grand View Medical Center in Jasper. According to his website, he is against ObamaCare and will fight for market-based reforms that will empower physicians and patients – not bureaucrats - and not threaten Medicare benefits our seniors depend on. 

Rep. Andy Harris, MD (R-MD)

Dr. Andy Harris earned his M.D. and MHS from the Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Harris served in the Navy Medical Corps and the U.S. Naval Reserve as a Lt. Commander on active duty during Operation Desert Storm, and currently serves as a Commander. He has worked as an anesthesiologist, as an Associate Professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine, and as Chief of Obstetric Anesthesiology at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. Harris also served as Commanding officer for the Johns Hopkins Naval Reserve Medical Unit from 1989 to 1992. Dr. Harris also served as a Maryland State Senator for 12 years prior to his election to the House.

Dr. Harris does not support the expansion of government-run or government-mandated insurance but, instead, common-sense market based solutions that ensure decisions are made by patients and their doctors. According to his website, he supports increased competition, price transparency, tax credits and expanded medical savings accounts, and meaningful medical malpractice liability reform.

Rep. Nan Hayworth, MD (R-NY)

Dr. Nan Hayworth attended Cornell University Medical College, and in 1989 she started her own small business, a solo practice in ophthalmology. In 1996 she became a partner at the Mount Kisco Medical Group, retiring from full-time practice in 2005. In 2007, she was recruited for a position as a vice president in Medical and Scientific Affairs at a large communications company in New York City.

Rep. Joe Heck, DO (R-NV)

Dr. Joe Heck received his Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1988, and completed a residency in Emergency Medicine at the Albert Einstein Medical Center in 1992. In 1993 he received Board Certification in Emergency Medicine and in 2000 was issued a Certificate of Added Qualification in Emergency Medical Services. Dr. Heck has served in a number of roles in the military and law enforcement providing medical support. He currently holds the rank of Colonel and commands a Medical Readiness Support Group overseeing more than 2,000 soldiers in 6 western states.

Joe represented Senate District 5 in the Nevada Senate from 2004 through 2008. He is also  the President and Medical Director of Specialized Medical Operations, Inc., a corporation dedicated to providing quality medical training, consulting, and operational support to Law Enforcement, EMS and Military Special Operations. He has lectured and published widely on special operations medical support, the medical response to acts of terrorism, and emergency preparedness and response.

From 1998 to 2003, Joe served as the Medical Director of the Casualty Care Research Center of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland, where he provided medical support for several Federal law enforcement agencies and oversight for the medical response to acts of terrorism.

Rep. Renee Ellmers, RN (R-NC)

Mrs. Renee Ellmers attended Oakland University, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing. She later worked as a Surgical Intensive Care Nurse at Beaumont Hospital. Today she works with her husband as Clinical Director of the Trinity Wound Care Center in Dunn. According to her website, she promises to seek free market-based and patient-centered solutions that will increase accessibility, lower costs and improve technologies that save, improve and enrich lives without raising taxes, rationing care or increasing government control.

Rep. Diane Black , RN (R-TN)

In 1969, Mrs. Diane Black began her career in health care, serving as a nurse in emergency rooms, learning the importance of high-quality health care and gaining first-hand knowledge of the obstacles faced by both patients and providers. She later served as an elected official in the Tennessee General Assembly, where she has advocated for patients and championed long-term health care for seniors and the disabled. According to her website, she believes in reforming insurance by allowing Americans to take their insurance policies with them upon changing jobs, and changing the way insurance companies approach pre-existing conditions.

She also believes in testing the concept of letting Americans buy their insurance through their churches, unions, civic clubs, professional associations or other groups that are not tied directly to their employment status.

Diane wants to remove the legal barriers to small-business insurance pooling and allow those who are self-employed to receive the same health care premium tax breaks as received by large corporations. She also wants to incentivize providers and insurers to convert our records to an all-digital system – while also ensuring patient privacy and the security of patient records. She believes this will decrease costs, improve diagnoses and improve coordination between specialists.

Finally, she believes we can improve patient health, improve government budgeting and improve our economy if America adjusts to a payment system that is based on performance – where doctors earn more as their chronic patients’ health improves according to a clear set of standards – since nearly three-quarters of our national health care expenditures are targeted at the treatment of just a few chronic diseases.

Rep. Paul Gosar, DDS (R-AZ)

After receiving his D.D.S  from Creighton Boyne School of Dentistry, Dr. Paul Gosar went on to open his own dentistry practice which he has owned for 25 years. According to his website, he believes that competition in the health care marketplace needs to be increased. He also wants to repeal anti-competitive protections for the insurance industry to help open up the marketplace, increase benefit options, bring better consumer service and reduce health care costs. 

Those physicians reelected to their House seats are Representatives:

  • Paul Broun, MD (R-GA)
  • Rep Phil Gingrey, MD (R-GA)
  • Rep Tom Price, MD (R-GA)
  • Rep Charles Boustany, MD (R-LA)
  • Rep Bill Cassidy, MD (R-LA)
  • Rep John Fleming, MD (R-LA)
  • Rep David “Phil” Roe, MD (R-TN)
  • Rep Michael Burgess, MD (R-TX)
  • Rep Ron Paul, MD (R-TX), and
  • Rep Jim McDermott, MD (D-WA)

Physicians leaving Congress are Representatives Vic Snyder, MD (D-AR), who is retiring, Steve Kagen, MD (D-WI), who was defeated, and Rolf “Parker” Griffith, MD (R, Ala), who lost in the primaries.


The agenda of this congress will be significantly different than the last congress.  Private enterprises will no longer we viewed with contempt or as simply a source of additional government revenue.  The new members will focus on reducing the size of government and regulations that hider free enterprise will become front and center.

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