5 Doctors in Congress and Their Opinions on Healthcare Reform

Image: Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Does having a medical background influence the way our legislators vote on healthcare reform? What the doctors in Congress think about healthcare.

There are fifteen physicians who currently serve as Senators and Representatives in Congress. And while it still remains to be seen whether the G.O.P bill to repeal and replace parts of the Affordable Care Act will go on to be passed by the Senate (and thus become law) it is worth examining where members of Congress who hold medical degrees stand on the issue. This much is clear: Physicians on both sides of the aisle believe our healthcare system needs to change.

Let’s take a look at the opinions of five of these doctors in Congress:

Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-CA)

Area of Specialization: Emergency Medicine


U.S. Rep. Dr. Raul Ruiz, an emergency physician who represents California’s 36th Congressional District, is the son of Mexican farm workers. Growing up in a trailer park in California’s Coachella Valley, Dr. Ruiz bore witness to the pain and suffering of people within his community who couldn’t afford healthcare. After attending Harvard, where, in addition to his medical degree he earned an M.P.P. from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and an M.P.H. from the Harvard School of Public Health, Dr. Ruiz returned to the medically underserved community in California where he grew up to practice emergency room medicine.

Opinion on Healthcare Reform

Dr. Ruiz has called the GOP’s proposed legislation “a bad bill” which benefits the wealthiest families in America. “I treated patients before the passage of the Affordable Care Act, and I treated patients after,” Dr. Ruiz wrote in an op-ed published by the LA Times. [After passage of the ACA] Dr. Ruiz “noticed firsthand that many patients stopped fearing the cost of their ER visit as more were covered by health insurance.”

Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY)

Area of Specialization: Orthopedic Surgery


Dr. John Barrasso, an orthopedic surgeon by training, has represented Wyoming in the U.S. Senate since 2007 and currently serves as the chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee.

Opinion on Healthcare Reform

During his time in the Senate, Dr. Barrasso has consistently and vehemently opposed Obamacare. He believes “[w]e could help more people with the same amount of money if Washington would get out of the way and let people in Wyoming make the decisions,” according to Bloomberg News.

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA)

Area of Specialization: Gastroenterology / Liver Disease


Dr. Bill Cassidy, a gastroenterologist and faculty member at LSU Medical School, represented Louisiana’s 6th Congressional District in Congress from 2009 to 2015 before his election to the U.S. Senate. In 1998, Dr. Cassidy helped found the Greater Baton Rouge Community Clinic to enable uninsured residents of Baton Rouge with access to free healthcare. He also spearheaded the conversion of an abandoned K-Mart building into an emergency medical facility in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, providing basic care to victims of the hurricane.

Opinion on Healthcare Reform

That Dr. Cassidy opposes Obamacare is a surprise to many people, considering his experience treating uninsured, low-income patients. To contextualize his position on healthcare, Dr. Cassidy told The Times-Picayune how, after working at a public hospital and personally witnessing government-run systems, “he came to a personal conclusion that the private insurance market is better equipped to provide medical coverage for people.”

Back in January, Dr. Cassidy and Senator Susan Collins of Maine proposed a partial replacement for the Affordable Care Act, dubbed the Patient Freedom Act of 2017. Their proposed bill, according to the New York Times, allows States to enroll people who would otherwise be uninsured in health plans providing basic coverage; States contract with one or more health insurers to offer this coverage.

Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA)

Area of Specialization: General Practice


Dr. Ami Bera, the son of Indian immigrants, has represented California’s 7th congressional district since 2013 and received his medical degree from the University of California, Irvine. He also served as the associate dean of admissions at the UC Davis School of Medicine before being appointed as chief medical officer for the County of Sacramento.

Opinion on Healthcare Reform

In 2015, Dr. Bera received Planned Parenthood’s Champions for Women’s Health Award and earlier this year he released a statement expressing his relief after the House majority cancelled its vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The “Affordable Care Act Repeal Bill would have kicked 100,000 people in Sacramento County off their health insurance plans, Dr. Bera explains. “The Speaker and GOP majority [should know now] that playing politics with people’s health care is not going to work. Real lives are at stake here.”

Despite his support of the ACA, Dr. Bera says “he gets along well with his GOP counterparts and wants to work with them on ensuring coverage in any replacement, as well as affordable and accessible care,” according to Bloomberg BNA.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)

Area of Specialization: Ophthalmology


Dr. Rand Paul, the son of former Texas Congressman Ron Paul (who is also a physician), represents Kentucky in the U.S. Senate alongside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. After graduating from the Duke University School of Medicine in 1993, Dr. Paul began practicing ophthalmology and opened his own eye clinic in Kentucky in 2007. Notably, Senator Paul did not attend the 2016 Republican National Convention because he was performing pro-bono eye surgeries to residents of Paducah, KY.

Opinion on Healthcare Reform

The Kentucky Senator has pledged to oppose any bill that does not fully do away with the ACA and its insurance subsidies. He also unveiled his own ObamaCare replacement bill the same week as Senators Collins and Cassidy introduced theirs. And although Senator Paul approves of recent amendments to the latest GOP bill, less conservative Republicans in Congress have expressed concern about the bill being too conservative.

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Healthcare, Inc. and HealthCare.com.

Erica Block: Erica Block is an Editorial Fellow at HealthCare.com, where she gets to combine her interest in healthcare policy with her penchant for creating online content. When she isn't reading or writing, Erica can be found wandering around Brooklyn, playing softball, or listening to podcasts. She counts music, rescue dogs, and lumberjack sports among her greatest passions. Follow Erica on Twitter: @EricaDaleBlock

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