August 2002 Bulletin

Three orthopaedists eye elective office

Aim to shape states’ legislative agendas

Issues include health care and more

By Sandra Lee Breisch

His campaign slogan boasts, "Real. Solid. Leadership." And the Academy’s Emeritus Fellow Thomas F. Scott, MD–who in November is trying to reclaim a West Virginia State Senate seat–has the experience to back up his words.

He is one of three orthopaedists running for state legislative offices in the fall 2002 elections.

Dr. Scott, a Republican, served in the State Senate from 1995-1998 and ranked third highest in the number of bills sponsored that actually became law. His issues range from health care to banking, judicial confirmations and regional cooperation.

In spite of tough competition–this year he is running against Evan Jenkins (D), executive director of the West Virginia State Medical Association–he remains undaunted. "I’m running because of unfinished business—specifically, because West Virginia is economically at the bottom of the heap. Our economy is static—if not shrinking—and our problems are deep-rooted and complex. Fortunately, the situation we are in can be fixed," shares Dr. Scott.

"I’ve spent a lifetime as a physician. I’m sensitive to the needs of patients and their physicians," says Dr. Scott. "I have the ability to build a consensus among people. But we have to look at other aspects of life here other than health care–and that is our basic economy and education. I’m also fighting for affordable liability insurance. We have high medical liability insurance premiums here–but all forms of liability insurance are sky high. And our workmen’s compensation premiums are skewed very highly, too."

Still practicing part-time at Scott Orthopaedic Center, Dr. Scott is an active member of the AAOS Political Action Committee. He recalls how he first won elective office eight years ago: "It’s the same way I’m going to win again–I literally visited the front door of well over half the registered voters in my district and made myself available to my constituents. There are about 110,00 people who live in my district and I visited 5,000 homes. It’s very labor intensive to run for political office."

Dr. Scott believes he has the right background and skills to serve in the State Senate. In 1985, he founded United Huntington, a venture capitalist company, with investor-contributions from industry leaders, doctors, lawyers, bankers and accountants to create and retain nearly 200 jobs in the Huntington area. "I’m the only candidate who can put his money where his mouth is when it comes to economic development–and the only candidate who has run any type of business or enterprise," says the candidate who got more than 80 percent of the vote in the primary.

The 70-year old Dr. Scott encourages orthopaedists to become more active in the legislative process. "It takes the same commitment to become a successful elected official as going through residency–and not many people want to do that at my age," he stresses.

Wyoming campaign

John A. Barrasso, MD, is running as a Republication for a seat in the Wyoming Senate. His campaign hinges on education and jobs. "Education remains the key that unlocks the doors to the American dream. My son Peter and my daughter Emma have received all of their formal education in Natrona County public schools. Our children learn best when parents, students and teachers work together. Our children do their best when they have the finest teachers in safe classrooms and of the right class size," says Dr. Barrasso, who has been in practice for 20 years.

"Jobs are also vital to the well-being of our community," explains Dr. Barrasso. "Here in Natrona County, we have the good fortune of attracting others from around the state for events and specialized health care. We need to do more with technology, telecommunications and affordable transportation to move people and products."

As secretary of the AAOS Political Action Committee, Dr. Barrasso says, "Physicians need to be involved in their communities and in the lives of their patients. One way to do this is by representing those people, their needs and concerns in the legislative process."

In 1996, Dr. Barrasso ran for one of the U.S. Senate seats from Wyoming and finished a close second in the GOP primary that had nine candidates.

"I will continue practicing medicine if I am elected," says Dr. Barrasso. "One of the joys of living in a state with a citizens’ legislature is that you can work in your profession and serve the state at the same time."

Maine representative seeks re-election

Having served in the Maine House of Representatives since 1998, Rep. Thomas F. Shields (R), an AAOS Emeritus Fellow, is making his third run for the same legislative seat.

"Being in the state legislature is something I always wanted to do," says the 71-year-old orthopaedist. "I would like to make a difference. The guidelines I use in considering legislation are to do the right thing, be fair to all concerned and we must live within our means. Fortunately, we have a constitutional requirement for a balanced budget in Maine."

This year, Rep. Shields ran unopposed in the primary election. He says he "will work hard" to retain his seat in November’s election. Currently, he serves on the Committee on Health and Human Services and says he plans to continue to do so.

"Maine is very benevolent as far as the poor and elderly are concerned. There’s a move to socialize the state incrementally," says the former AAOS Board of Councilors’ representative for Maine. "The liberals are trying to make this a welfare state. It is demanding for our economy. The Medicare and Medicaid fee schedule for providers are inadequate–not only for the facility providers but also for individual practitioners. Currently, there’s a movement to have single-payer universal health care in Maine. I’m from the school of thought that we need to help those who cannot help themselves–but all should be contributing. The cost of any universal system should be calculated on a proper fee schedule for providers and not on the current fee allowances."

Rep. Shields also is concerned about scientific research for health care and issues of confidentiality. He has supported a federal program for breast and cervical cancer for women, and also supported Maine’s application to expand Medicaid benefits to any citizen who is inadequately insured or not insured and has a proven case of cancer. He has sponsored a bill to create an ombudsman service for children and their families when dealing with the state bureaucracy.

Additionally, Rep. Shields supports measures that lower taxes, shrink the size of government, and help those who are really unable to help themselves, enhance education, care for the elderly, realistically protect our environment and promote business. He has also pledged to oppose laudable programs that the state of Maine cannot afford without raising taxes. "Maine citizens have the highest per capita tax rate in the United States," says Shields.

One of Rep. Shields’ bills, H.B. 968 to allow voluntary testing for Hepatitis C in adult prisons in the Maine Correctional System, was recently signed into law by Governor Angus S. King, Jr. (I).

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