At Select Subcommittee Hearing, Democrats Call Out Republican Hypocrisy on Physician-Patient Relationship, Defend America’s Public Health
Washington, D.C. (September 15, 2023)—Rep. Raul Ruiz, M.D., Ranking Member of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, led Select Subcommittee Democrats in pushing back on Republicans’ attempts to undermine trust in public health and advocating for forward-looking solutions that advance future pandemic prevention and preparedness. Throughout the hearing, Select Subcommittee Democrats called out Republican Members for their hypocrisy on the relationship between Americans’ and their doctors, pointing to extreme Republicans’ draconian bans on abortion access and LGBTQI+ health care.
“[T]he physician-patient relationship is not one that occurs in spite of our government’s public health institutions. Rather, it is a relationship that is complemented and fortified by the tireless work of public health officials and experts—particularly during times of crisis. And now that we have emerged from the darkest days of this pandemic, we as lawmakers have a responsibility to continue equipping our nation’s doctors with the tools necessary to provide the highest quality care to patients—both now and in the event of a future crisis,” said Ranking Member Ruiz in his opening statement.
The hearing included testimony from Dr. Andi Shane, Chief of the Division of Infectious Disease at the Department of Pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine.
Select Subcommittee Democrats debunked Republicans’ claims that vaccine requirements and COVID-19 mitigation measures infringed on the ability of physicians to provide care for their patients.
- Ranking Member Raul Ruiz said: “[O]nce COVID-19 vaccines became available, the Biden Administration and the physician community worked together to rapidly deploy them and increase their uptake—including through commonsense policies like vaccine requirements. These public health measures, which were enacted in support and in consultation with physicians, allowed us to safely and responsibly reunite loved ones; reopen schools, businesses, and workplaces; save lives, reduce harm, and prevent additional hospitalizations."
- Congresswoman Deborah Ross pointed out physician support for pandemic-era policies that helped reduce the spread of COVID-19 and save lives: “In November 2021, the American Medical Association led 60 organizations and more than 30 preeminent doctors, scientists, and public health leaders in issuing a statement of support for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s vaccine policies. In BST Holdings v. OSHA, the AMA filed an amicus brief in support of the agency’s vaccine and testing policies, emphasizing that COVID-19 poses a grave danger to public health and that halting the policies would irreparably harm the public interest.”
Select Subcommittee Democrats exposed how extreme Republicans’ policies restricting access to abortion and LGBTQI+ health care directly interfere in the relationship between physicians and their patients and prevent Americans from accessing necessary medical care.
- Congresswoman Jill Tokuda said: “It is truly hypocritical that my Republican colleagues are convening a hearing on government overreach into the doctor-patient relationship when their party is literally writing the playbook across our country on how to do exactly that—all while endangering the lives of 25 million women by denying them access to abortions and forcing doctors to break their hypocritic oath to do no harm when government denies them the ability to provide their patients with the care and treatment they need.”
- Congressman Robert Garcia said: “House Republicans have built an entire platform around controlling women’s bodies, banning health care for LGBTQ+ people, and putting corporate profits over the needs of everyday Americans. As a committee, we should be coming together to protect public health and fighting to make medical care more accessible for all Americans. But instead, House Republicans are working to undermine the doctor-patient relationship and push essential health care out of reach for women, LGBTQ+ people, low-income Americans, and seniors."
- Congresswoman Deborah Ross demonstrated the medical community’s overwhelming rejection of Republicans’ extreme policies for infringing on the doctor patient relationship, pointing to briefs filed by leading medical societies and organizations like Democracy Forward: “The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists led 24 medical organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American College of Physicians, and the American Medical Women’s Association, in filing an amicus brief in Dobbs v. Jackson in opposition to Mississippi’s abortion ban after 15 weeks of pregnancy, writing that the ban, writing that the ban, ‘[I]mpermissibly intrudes into the patient-physician relationship…’”
Select Subcommittee Democrats laid the groundwork for forward-looking policies that ensure scientific and medical expertise leads our nation’s ongoing response to COVID-19 and efforts to advance more equitable access to care across the board.
- Ranking Member Raul Ruiz said: “Now, as we enter the fall and winter months when cases of COVID-19 and the flu are known to rise, our government’s public health officials must keep this line of communication open with patients and physicians to promote the highest quality of care. We can achieve this goal by partnering with community-based organizations, especially those in underserved communities, to increase public health outreach and improve health outcomes from COVID-19."
- Congresswoman Dingell said: “I do think that the doctor-patient relationship is important. There are too many people who aren’t as lucky as we are to have access to a doctor. There are too many people who don’t have access to a doctor…We have to work on getting people to want to go into health care and how we work together to give everyone the access that we do.”
- In response to questions from Congressman Robert Garcia about the importance of accurate, science-based information, especially during an ongoing pandemic. Dr. Shane testified that: “It is absolutely critically important that information is available that it is accessible that it is interpreted and communicated to families and patients.”