You might be surprised to know that there are 15 physicians in Congress — more than I would have expected. It would be nice to think that these doctors could provide clarity and insight on healthcare issues — perhaps even drive the debate over reform.

The reality, unfortunately, is that they generally toe their party lines and seem to fade in the background. I guess being an expert politician is more important than being an expert anything else in Washington.

In fact, the last time I can recall a physician Congressman bringing his medical “expertise” to bear was when then Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist shamelessly demagogued on the Terri Schiavo family tragedy, challenging the diagnosis of Schiavo’s physicians that she was in a persistent vegetative state.

He said Schiavo wasn’t brain-dead based on “a review of the video footage which I spent an hour or so looking at last night in my office.” If that’s the kind of insight we get from having physicians in Congress, we might as well stick to the lawyers. Texas Rep. Ron Paul, on the other hand, is a physician Congressman of another sort.

As his millions of rabid online fans know, he doesn’t toe the party line. He says what he really thinks. So I thought I’d share some of Paul’s thoughts on Americans buying drugs from Canadian pharmacies — a proposal that has been introduced to Congress and that, we hope, will soon be made law.

Here are excerpts from an article Paul penned on the subject of reimportation, which we’ve organized in a Q&A format —

Why do you support allowing Americans to buy drugs from Canada? Reimportation would … inject a tiny measure of freedom into our increasingly regulated health care system. No American should ever enjoy less freedom by virtue of living in the U.S., and no American should be forced to pay higher prices for drugs that are available more cheaply overseas. The ban on reimportation is unconscionable, and most Americans know it despite the best efforts of the pharmaceutical companies and their mouthpieces. What about concerns that reimportation would hurt the pharmaceutical industry? Some [advocacy groups have] made the outrageous argument that reimportation will threaten the pharmaceutical industry’s profits, as though it is the job of government to ensure the profitability of any industry. The arguments against reimportation amount to simple protectionism. Opponents of reimportation want to preserve artificially high drug prices in America at the expense of drug consumers. They rely on two tired and demonstrably false claims: namely, that the free market does not work when it comes to health care, and that there is no “level playing field” because other countries impose price controls on drugs. These protectionist arguments are used as justification for imposing higher costs on Americans by limiting their consumer choices. What about those who say Canadian drugs are only lower in cost because of price controls? It does not matter if the Canadians or Germans employ price controls. Their drug prices may be artificially low, while ours may be artificially high. This simply shows that both the U.S. and other countries interfere in the market. It is not a justification for further intervention in the market by prohibiting reimportation. American consumers should not be punished simply because other governments have foolish economic policies.

Ah, common sense. It’s refreshing, isn’t it?