Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/washington/news.aspx?id=136307
Story Retrieval Date: 5/24/2013 5:06:06 AM CST
Although he isn’t a medical doctor (he does hold a doctorate in political economy and government from Harvard University), Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., claims the health-care reform touches closer to home for him than anyone else on the House Education and Labor Committee – especially when it comes to children.
“In my 31st year in the military, this month, four years ago, my daughter, my 4-year-old, was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, basically the same thing Sen. Kennedy has,” said Sestak, who also mentioned that the Navy provided his daughter with proper care while he was away on duty.
Despite the misfortunes in his family, Sestak, a three-star admiral, considers himself lucky – lucky that his daughter got the care she needed, which included three brain operations, while so many other children are denied the care they so desperately need.
Sestak is also part of the Education and Labor committee, which just approved a health-care reform bill last week. If the reform is a success, the Philadelphia-area lawmaker said he would consider his work in Congress finished.
“It’s the only reason I’m in the House of Representatives, for this bill,” he said. “After this, I can go.”
After Sestak made that remark, Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., uncomfortably joked, “I guess you should turn the mic off.”
Although Sestak’s situation is an extreme one, he offers evidence that at least one congressman is gung-ho when it comes to health-care reform.
For every Sestak, there are thousands of Americans in similar situations, praying for a successful reform effort.
WASHINGTON – It’s still far more common to find a doctor in a hospital, but it’s not very hard to find a doctor in Congress – and not all of them are working on healthcare issues.
From Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, to Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., it seems that making the shift from the lab coat to a suit coat isn’t all that unusual.
Currently, there are 16 physicians in Congress – including two serving in the Senate. Surprisingly, only seven of them sit on committees working on health-care reform, and they don’t include big names like Paul, a libertarian who ran for president in the Republican primary campaign last year.
Since the majority of the House doctors are Republicans, it comes as no surprise that many are against the changes sought by President Barack Obama for a health system that many believe is broken.
“I left the practice of medicine, I left caring for patients for over 20 years for precisely this moment in public policy,” said Price, who is a trained orthopedic surgeon.
Price said that during his time as a practicing physician, government interference in doctor-patient relationships is what caused him the most problems. Because of public-health programs like Medicare and Medicaid, not everyone has access to the care they need, he said.
“Former patients of mine are unable to find a doctor to care for them because of intervention of the federal government,” said Price, whose colleagues on the Education and Labor Committee include Reps. Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Phil Roe, R-Tenn., both doctors.
Even so, Price is against the reform legislation, which he referred to as a “one-size-fits-all” proposal, giving the government even more power over health-care decisions.
“You’re going to give 97 percent of the American people access to health care,” Price said, addressing the Democrats in committee. “You know what they’ll have access to? They’ll have access to an opportunity to get in line.”
Not everyone agrees with Price. Rep. James McDermott, D-Wash.,, a psychiatrist who serves on the Ways and Means committee, is all for a universal health care system and he’s not alone.
Doctors aren’t the only medical caregivers on call on Capitol Hill. There are also three nurses – two registered and one licensed practical nurse – all Democrats serving in the House of Representatives. Unlike the doctors, all three nurses are members of committees involved in health care reform. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., serves alongside Price on the Education and Labor Committee.
“We’ve been trying to do something about health care since the early 60s and it kept getting put off,” said McCarthy, who worked as a registered nurse for 32 years. “Patients are already waiting hours to see a doctor; patients are already waiting to go to an emergency room.”
McCarthy said, “its a disgrace that so many children cannot get health care. If we as a nation cannot take care of our children, who is supposed to?”
So far, congressional committees have approved three bills – one in the Senate and two in the House – but nothing is certain. Nevertheless, the Congress caregivers can all agree on one thing: the current health-care system is in need of some major surgery.