NPR, February 10, 2017
Phil Galewitz

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The confirmation of Tom Price, the orthopedic surgeon-turned-Georgia congressman, as secretary of Health and Human Services on Friday represents the latest victory in the ascendancy of a little-known but powerful group of conservative physicians in Congress — the GOP Doctors Caucus.

During the Obama administration, the caucus regularly sought to overturn the Affordable Care Act, and it's now expected to play a major role determining the Trump administration's plans for replacement.

Robert Doherty, a lobbyist for the American College of Physicians, the professional organization for internal medicine doctors, says the GOP Doctors Caucus has gained importance with Republicans' rise to power. "As political circumstances have changed, they have grown more essential," Doherty says.

"They will have considerable influence over the discussion on repeal and replace legislation," he says.

Price's supporters have touted his medical degree as an important credential for his new position, but Price and the caucus members are hardly representative of America's physicians in 2017.

The "trust us, we're doctors" refrain of the caucus obscures its conservative agenda, critics say.

"Their views are driven more by political affiliation," says Mona Mangat, an allergist-immunologist and chair of Doctors for America, a 16,000-member organization that favors the current health law. "It doesn't make me feel great. Doctors outside of Congress do not support their views."

For example, while the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology has worked to protect access to abortion, the three obstetrician-gynecologists in the 16-member House caucus are anti-abortion and oppose the ACA provision that provides prescription contraception without copays.

While a third of the U.S. medical profession is now female, 15 of the 16 members of the GOP caucus are male, and only eight of them are doctors. [...]

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