COMMENTARY

Docs Raise Money for Candidates; Why Mega Payouts Rise; More

Wayne J. Guglielmo, MA

Disclosures

January 22, 2015

In This Article

Physicians Raise Money to Support Doctor-Friendly Candidates

If the most recent national election is any indication, physician groups have learned the time-honored lesson that money is the mother's milk of politics.

During the 2014 elections, physician political action groups spent a total of $6.9 million to support candidates who are doctor-friendly on a range of issues, including medical malpractice reform, according to a December posting on the website of the Sunlight Foundation, a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that advocates for more open and accountable government.[1]

One large recipient of that support was incumbent Rep Ami Bera (D, California), a specialist in internal medicine and "a staunch advocate for doctors' concerns." Locked in a tight race with former GOP congressman Doug Ose, Bera received nearly $460,000 from the political action committees (PACs) of seven medical specialty groups: the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Ophthalmology, American College of Surgeons, American Osteopathic Information Association, American Society of Anesthesiologists, National Emergency Medicine Association, and American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Among the groups spending heavily against Bera were the National Republican Congressional Committee; American Crossroads, a super-PAC started by former White House strategist Karl Rove; and the US Chamber of Commerce.

In February of last year, Bera and Rep Andy Barr (R, Kentucky) introduced legislation—the Saving Lives, Saving Costs Act (H.R. 4106)—aimed at offering doctors an alternative to the current medical liability system. Under this alternative, claims against physicians who allegedly followed applicable clinical practice guidelines would be heard by an independent medical review panel. Doctors who receive a favorable review would be permitted to recover trial costs and attorneys' fees from plaintiffs.

Bera has also championed repeal of the so-called sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula, the method the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services uses to control Medicare spending on physician services. Medical groups have long lobbied for a change to this formula in order to avoid annual cuts in physician payment rates, which Congress usually suspends at the 11th hour, a maneuver popularly known as the "doc fix." Bera and others want to overhaul the SGR and thus impose a "permanent doc fix."

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