The Doctor’s Advocate | Third Quarter 2022
Government Relations Report

Special Interests Influence Election Outcomes: What It Means for Healthcare

Elizabeth Y. Healy, Vice President, Government and Community Relations, The Doctors Company

Midterm elections are often overlooked, and voter turnout is most often lower than in presidential election years. This situation is highly unfortunate because these elections are critical—especially to healthcare professionals and institutions.

Electing the president of the United States is profoundly important, but that office alone does not run the government. At every level—from the United States Congress and state legislatures all the way to city and county governments—our complex, multilayered governmental structure is deeply involved in medicine. While the president appoints members of the U.S. Supreme Court and certain district federal courts, state governors and local voters choose the members of county and state courts, including state supreme courts and courts of appeals (which make important decisions, for example, about the constitutionality of medical liability reforms).

Midterm elections also offer opportunities to elect governors and state legislators. The pandemic has served to clearly highlight how many public health decisions are made at local and state levels. State governments are highly involved in regulating the practice of medicine for all healthcare professionals and institutions. For example, state governments establish and make the rules for physician and nursing licensing boards (as well as for most other boards), regulate healthcare insurers, determine Medicaid reimbursement rates, determine staffing ratios for healthcare facilities, and propose and vote on laws governing who can sue and for how much in medical liability claims. State legislatures—driven by headlines and personal experiences—often get involved in the physician-patient relationship.

Local elections determine the quality of life in every community. Among the many decisions made by your local officials: children’s education (school boards), traffic and road safety, housing availability and affordability, parks and recreational facilities, kids’ camps, policing, how crimes are prioritized for prosecution, and property and sales taxes. Local elections are often the training grounds for future statewide or national public offices.

Predictably, politicians who have had to manage city and county budgets and contend with local hot-button issues are better prepared to handle the dual challenges of serving in higher office and running for higher office. How you vote in local elections also has an impact on who runs for the state legislature or Congress in future elections.

Many individuals respond with “I know all that, but my single vote doesn’t count because money and special interests count more.” Although it is true that money and special interests do have an influence on public policy, here is what too many people don’t understand: Campaign finance money CANNOT be used to buy the votes of politicians. Buying votes is illegal and unethical.

Campaign finance money is actually used to buy the means to communicate with voters. Politicians raise money in an effort to turn out more voters who can elect or reelect them. So-called “special interest groups” provide campaign funds to those running for office who are aligned with their policy goals. Regular, everyday citizens also provide campaign funds.

It all comes back to the voters—voters like you. Politicians want money to convince you to vote for them. The money goes to TV ads, mailers, community outreach, ground campaigns, and consultants to help politicians reach voters. It is all about getting YOU to vote for them. And remember that one person’s or group’s special interest is another person’s champion/advocate.

A special interest group lobbies and raises campaign finance funding for nearly every possible interest. Whether that special interest represents like-minded environmentalists, organized healthcare professionals, cheesemakers, public health officers, nonprofit organizations, or model railroad enthusiasts, a coalition of groups works together to influence political and policy outcomes for its interest group.

The Doctors Company—a special interest group advocating for healthcare professionals—works to enable and protect the practice of good medicine. Through our political program, we work primarily to help elect and reelect members of Congress and state lawmakers who are supportive of, or open to, prioritizing access to healthcare by protecting physicians and other healthcare providers.

We advocate for balanced and just medical liability laws. A prime example is in an election in which the choice is between a physician running for the state legislature against a personal injury lawyer. Obviously, it would be much better for medicine if the physician were to win the race over the personal injury lawyer. The physician would be much more understanding of the nuances involved in the provision of healthcare.

We are often faced with choices like this: a candidate for election or reelection to public office who is sympathetic to the concerns of medical professionals facing a candidate who prioritizes the desires of personal injury lawyers over access to healthcare. Your state professional societies, which are also special interest groups, typically advocate on legislation involving reimbursement for services and scope of practice.

Everything that is important to you in your personal life, your professional life, and your community is affected by the politicians you elect at all levels of government. Don’t miss your opportunity this November to make your voice heard. Your vote does matter and it does count.

Learn more about how we advocate for you and the practice of good medicine.

Please consider helping us to continue that work by contributing to DOCPAC (our state and federal political action committees).

The Doctor’s Advocate is published by The Doctors Company to advise and inform its members about loss prevention and insurance issues.

The guidelines suggested in this newsletter are not rules, do not constitute legal advice, and do not ensure a successful outcome. They attempt to define principles of practice for providing appropriate care. The principles are not inclusive of all proper methods of care nor exclusive of other methods reasonably directed at obtaining the same results.

The ultimate decision regarding the appropriateness of any treatment must be made by each healthcare provider considering the circumstances of the individual situation and in accordance with the laws of the jurisdiction in which the care is rendered.

The Doctor’s Advocate is published quarterly by Corporate Communications, The Doctors Company. Letters and articles, to be edited and published at the editor’s discretion, are welcome. The views expressed are those of the letter writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or official policy of The Doctors Company. Please sign your letters, and address them to the editor.

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