Although there were many winners and losers on election night, for the specialty of Emergency Medicine, November 6th was a definite win! We saw the number of EPs in the US Congress double overnight. Not only did Rep. Joe Heck (R) NV-3 keep his seat by a comfortable 50-43% margin, but Dr. Raul Ruiz (D) CA-36 district pulled off what may have been the biggest upset nationally by defeating the 7-term incumbent Mary Bono Mack by a 52-48% vote. Dr. Ruiz’s election means that the specialty of Emergency Medicine will now have two Members of Congress sitting in the 113th Session, including one of our own on each side of the aisle. While two Members of Congress may seem like a pretty small number out of the 435 total members, this is still two more than we had only 2 years when Dr. Heck was the first EM doc elected. And we just missed out on a third when Dr. David Gill lost his race for the 13th district seat in Illinois by half a percentage point.
While we celebrate the wins by Representatives Heck and Ruiz, the specialty should also be proud of the fact that there were a total of six EPs who ran for the US House of Representatives this cycle. In addition to Dr. Gill who just barely lost in Illinois, there were three other EPs who we profiled in EP Monthly who ran strong campaigns but came up short in the primary elections held earlier this year. Being a part of the process by making a personal commitment and sacrifice of time to run in a national election is no small task. As such, we all should thank Dr. Randy Jotte of Missouri, Dr. John McGoff of Indiana and Dr. Paige Kreegel of Florida for representing the house of Emergency Medicine well in the political arena.
Not to put too much pressure on Joe and Raul, but maybe the emergency physicians in the House can work together in a bipartisan fashion and show the rest of Congress how to work together and solve a problem….just like convincing the on-call specialist on the other end of the phone that they really do need to come in to do the right thing for the patient! Even though Joe and Raul may have different approaches to issues in healthcare including how to “fix” Medicare, both clearly understand that the current system is not sustainable and have campaigned to find a long term solution to providing cost-effective care for our seniors. After his election, Dr. Ruiz reiterated his commitment to make healthcare legislation, including reform of the SGR formula, a priority for him in Washington. When asked if he believed he would be able to submit legislation on a bipartisan basis with Rep. Heck, Rep. Ruiz stated that he campaigned as a consensus builder, and that he will reach out to other Representatives on both sides of the aisle who were willing to seek bipartisan solutions to the nation’s issues. Similarly, Rep. Heck stated that he looks forward to meeting Dr. Ruiz and working with him, especially on health policy legislation. Most of all, said Heck, “[I] want to stay focused on being a doctor who happens to be a Congressman.”