Radiologists favor RADPAC as profession's political contributions triple

June 29, 2018
by John W. Mitchell, Senior Correspondent
When radiologists make political contributions, they mostly give to political action committees, with the Radiology Political Action Committee (RADPAC) far and away the preferred organization.

Every year about 1,700 radiologists contributed a bit more than $2,000 on average, according to a recently published study of Federal Election Commission records between 2003-2016. The study appeared in the journal of the American College of Radiology.

“With the uncertainty regarding healthcare currently, and the increasing political polarization of the country, we essentially wanted to investigate how self-identified radiologists were contributing,” Amy Patel, M.D., medical director of Women's Imaging at Liberty Hospital and clinical assistant professor at the University of Missouri, Kansas City School of Medicine, and lead author, told HCB News.

Of all radiologist dollars contributed, 76.3 percent were nonpartisan. Of the remaining contributions, 14.8 percent were made to Republican candidates, with 8.5 percent going to Democratic candidates. Some 74.6 percent of political contributions went to political action committees (PACs), with RADPAC receiving 92.5 percent of PAC political dollars from radiologists. Total political giving by self-identified radiologists more than tripled from $321,000 in 2003 to $1,113,966 in 2016.

RADPAC usually ranks second or third for PAC contributions among medical political action committees, according to Patel. RADPAC raised about $1.2 million a year, according to Ted Burnes, director, RADPAC and Political Education, which was not involved in the study. He said that while radiologists do make donations to candidates on their own, there are benefits to contributing through RADPAC, which is nonpartisan.

“When we make a contribution to a member of Congress’ (MOC) re-election campaign, or federal candidate, they know it's on behalf of radiology and that creates a real connection between the profession and that candidate/MOC. That's real impact,” Burnes told HCB News.

Burnes added that this is important, given that 90 percent of Congress consists of non-health professionals. He said most MOCs don’t understand healthcare nuances, let alone a specialty such as radiology. RADPAC contributions create an opportunity to form congressional relationships, which are vital for advocacy. For example, Burnes said they were able to educate MOCs on the importance of mammography insurance coverage beginning at age 40. RADPAC helped turn back an effort to raise the age to 50.

“Look, this (lobbying) is a competitive, full-contact sport. There are over 4,300 PACs in DC. It's hard to get one's voice heard with all the noise,” Burnes said. “Having a large, well-established PAC that builds relationships on both sides of the aisle, in both chambers, offers the profession the best representation possible to protect itself.”

Patel agreed, noting that there are many competing interests in Washington, D.C. She said that RADPAC also provides education on radiology advocacy across the country and arranges site visits so that radiologists can visit their elected representatives. Such activity not only advances the specialty but also helps to serve patients, Patel said. While the study found that only about 10 percent of practicing radiologists contribute to RADPAC, she thinks this may increase as healthcare becomes more competitive in the political arena.

“It's wonderful to see that radiologists are coming together to put their profession first, regardless of political affiliation,” said Patel.