Is There a Doctor in the House? The Medical Background of Congress

Congress oversees a great deal that has to do with health care.  You may have heard a little about that little piece of legislation that was passed called the Affordable Care Act (a/k/a Obamacare), comprehensively reforming our system of healthcare to extend coverage to those previously unable to get insurance.  You may also be aware of Congressional oversight and the passage of occasional legislation related to the Food and Drug Administration, an agency which regulates one-fourth of the U.S. economy.

But what you might not be aware of is how many members of Congress come to the institution with a medical background.  Thanks to the recent update of Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute, Tom Mann of Brookings, Michael Malbin of the Campaign Finance Institute of been an increase in the number of members coming from a medical profession, but that in fact it stands at the highest number over time.

If you breakdown the representation of the medical professions by party, an interesting pattern emerges.  For many years, the two parties were somewhat in parity throughout the various Congresses, but in the 103rd Congress in the early 1990s, the GOP began to outpace Democratic members quite a bit.  The chart below only provides a breakdown between the parties through the 112th using the data from Vital Statistics, however I believe after a review from a JAMA article – “Physicians in Congress”, that the breakdown in the 113th would be 18 GOP and 2 Democratic.

In any event, when you compare the number of lawyers in Congress – in 1953 there were 247 members from the legal profession while there were only 6 members from the medical profession.  By 2013, the number of members from the legal profession dropped to 156 while the number from the medical profession rose to 20.  I will leave you to draw your own conclusions.

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