- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 16, 2005

ANNAPOLIS — Frustrated by increasing problems facing the medical profession, a physicians’ political action committee is sending mailings to 10,000 Maryland daoctors asking them to consider running for the General Assembly and support doctors who are on the ballot in next year’s election.

“Lately, we’ve been beset by major problems in health care,” Dr. Mark Siegel, chairman of the Physicians for Tort Reform Political Action Committee, said yesterday. “It’s getting to be very difficult to continue in private practice, especially in the high-risk specialties.”

“In the past, physicians have not had much interest in politics,” Dr. Siegel said.

But that has begun to change as doctors have seen their incomes squeezed between big increases in medical malpractice premiums and insufficient payments for their services from insurance companies, Medicaid and Medicare, Dr. Siegel said.

Doctors wearing the long white coats that signify their profession were a frequent sight around the legislature, beginning with a special session on medical malpractice reform in December and continuing through the three-month regular session from January to April.

The tort reform committee has set a goal of raising $1 million to help elect candidates who will support doctors on medical malpractice and other issues before the General Assembly. It is asking doctors to contribute $200.

The first priority will be to encourage doctors to run for election to the House or Senate, Dr. Siegel said.

The political action committee will support the re-election of the two doctors now in the legislature — Sen. Andrew P. Harris, Baltimore County Republican, and Delegate Dan K. Morhaim, Baltimore County Democrat.

Dr. Siegel said at least two other doctors are considering running for the legislature, including Ron Elfenbein in Anne Arundel County and John Young in Montgomery County.

“I can’t think of a more qualified person to make a decision about health care than a physician,” Dr. Siegel said. “Attorneys know about the practice of law. They don’t know about health care.”

About 20 percent of the 188 members of the House and Senate are lawyers, compared with 4 percent in the health care field — two doctors, three nurses, two pharmacists and one health care administrator.

Dr. Siegel said it is hard for doctors to serve in the legislature unless they are a part of big practices and have other doctors who can take over when they are in Annapolis. But even one new physician member would be a 50 percent increase over the current membership, he noted.

Besides recruiting physicians to run for office, the political action committee will focus on “a few close elections and throw our support on one side or the other to influence the outcome,” Dr. Siegel said.

“Whatever we accomplish, it’s a step in the right direction,” he said.

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