"Basically, these groups want to curry favor with both sides," says Brian Dowling, senior fellow for government studies at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington D.C, to HealthLeaders Media. "With healthcare reform, Republicans have promised to repeal it, and that's part of the agenda. Physicians and healthcare representatives want to be part of it, and be a player in the room if they repeal 'Obamacare.' If Obama wins, he will definitely continue to implement healthcare reform, and he's not going to repeal it, but healthcare wants to be in the room."
Focus is on Congress
PACs are particularly focusing on congressional races, especially in light of "one of the most significant issues being the ongoing ''doc fix' issue, related to reductions in Medicare reimbursements to physicians. It's been a yearly exercise and [lately it's been] ' a monthly exercise," Dowling adds. Congress recently voted to postpone the cuts to the end of 2012.
Indeed, most of the large physician PACs, such as the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons and the American Society of Anesthesiologists, funnel their largesse to congressional campaigns, not presidential races.
Officials of healthcare PACS say they aren't concentrating necessarily on the politicians or their parties, but the policies.
When the American Society of Anesthesiologists' leaders get together, "we don't use a specific formula for making campaign decisions," Jeffrey Mueller, MD, chair of the ASAPAC executive board tells HealthLeaders Media. "We have a saying on the ASAPAC executive board, 'not red, or blue, just working for you.' Our members are very active locally in helping us to identify candidates of both parties who understand anesthesiology. In the end, ASAPAC goes where our members want it to go."
"ASAPAC leadership realized some years ago that no party has a lock on understanding the issues that are important to anesthesiologists," Mueller adds. Indeed, in an evaluation of campaigns over the years, the Center of Responsive Politics noted in a statement, "You're sleeping if you believe the American Society of Anesthesiologists strongly favors one political party over another."