Drilling Down on Rep. Ferguson’s First Year on Capitol Hill
Rep. Drew Ferguson began his career as a small hometown dentist in West Point, Georgia. He never anticipated the turn of events that would lead him into politics, first serving as Mayor of his hometown, and in January 2017 beginning his tenure as a congressman representing Georgia’s third district in the U.S. House of Representatives.
A common thread between Ferguson’s career as a dentist, mayor and congressman is a willingness and desire to serve others. “You get into public service because there is a chance to improve the lives of those around you,” says Ferguson. It is what guides him and greatly influences decisions he makes as a member of Congress. Ferguson also believes recognizing and appreciating the gifts we have and having a positive outlook
is important. “I wake up every morning and believe that I am going to have the best day of my life,” he says.
One of his early mentors was his own dentist, Dr. Evan Martin. As a high schooler, Ferguson considered being a physician or surgeon like his grandfather, but it was an invitation from Martin to spend time with him in his practice that sparked Ferguson’s interest in dentistry and influenced him to choose it as a career.
Ferguson was first exposed to organized dentistry as a dental student at The Dental College of Georgia. “Leadership from the Georgia Dental Association came to the dental school and talked about the importance of organized dentistry and helped us understand that the legislative process was vitally important to our ability to care for patients,” says Ferguson. “It was impressed upon us that if we were not involved, someone in the state legislature without a dental license would have more say on care of our patients that we as dentists did.” As a student, he says, it had a profound impact on him and it still resonates with him. “I always knew that organized dentistry was at the forefront of providing quality health care because we came together with one voice and were able to speak in the legislative arena with one voice and that is still very important today,” says Ferguson.
After graduating from dental school in 1992, Ferguson moved back to West Point and opened a family dental practice. He was raising his family, treating patients and doing what he had hoped to do. “Then, our town fell into tough economic times and that’s what got me involved in local government to be a part of bringing our community back.”
A unique opportunity came up in West Point, giving Ferguson an opportunity to run for mayor and help revive his hometown. Ferguson won the seat and served as mayor for the next eight years, before being elected as a congressman representing Georgia’s third district.
“Organized dentistry played a critical role in me being in Congress,” says Ferguson. He credits support from colleagues in Georgia and around the nation as one of the reasons for his success in the campaign.
“I think dentistry is the perfect training ground to be mayor because most everyone walks in with a problem, and they want it taken care of immediately with a low cost. That’s pretty much how local government works, as well,” says Ferguson. He credits his involvement with the Georgia Dental Association for teaching him the importance of listening to other opinions, learning how to have professional conversations, and negotiating legislation that is best for patients.
Dentistry also contributed to his understanding of the needs of small business. “As a dentist, as much as having a dental practice, I was a small business owner,” says Ferguson. “We had to make payroll each week, manage inventory, and be involved in a larger healthcare system. That all helped how I view my role in government and to make sure we have an environment where small businesses can thrive.”
He notes the biggest difference between being a mayor and a U.S. congressman is the ability to solve problems quickly. “When you are mayor of a small town, you are expected to get immediate results. Mayors across this nation are problem solvers and learn to work with a lot of different groups to solve those problems and they get results. In Congress, problems are bigger and face the nation, not just one community.”
ACA Rule 1557 and Medicaid Benefits
In his first year in office, Rep. Ferguson has worked to educate other members of Congress on issues related to dentistry, including Rule 1557 of the Affordable Care Act which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability in certain health programs or activities. Asked if he has a sense of whether there may be some movement to remove Rule 1557 from the books, he said he is optimistic that the rule can be repealed. “Members of Congress now are beginning to understand how this rule affects our ability to care for patients and how it is an overreach into small business and has a negative effect of reducing access to care. I believe as we go through the next year in health care we will begin to see more and more changes that positively affect patient care and the health of our practices,” says Ferguson.
Asked about the future of dental Medicaid benefits, Ferguson does not believe Medicaid benefits will be cut as a result of reforms to the Affordable Care Act. “First of all, the ACA really restricted the growth of Medicaid for the able-bodied adult that should be in an employer based system. There is still continued growth in Medicaid and what we are trying to do is make sure the ACA protects the most vulnerable in society by making our safety net strong. We think it is fair and reasonable, but don’t think it’s reasonable for able-bodied adults to be on government subsidized healthcare,” says Ferguson. He acknowledges we must help our most vulnerable who do need assistance, however, he believes the entire welfare entitlement program must be a stepping stone for someone in poverty into the middle class. “I think there is a genuine commitment to reform those programs so we can restore the dignity of work for all Americans,” he says.
Ferguson believes the nation’s largest challenge and biggest threat is the $20 trillion of debt that our nation owes. “We must make sure our nation has a healthy national economy that gives us the resources we need to defend our nation and pay down the debt and still do things we believe are important. That is the primary driver right now and where we’re focusing in Congress,” says Ferguson. He says a healthy economy involves making sure our tax code is simple and fair and puts us in a competitive place on the world stage, making sure we have a work force that is prepared from an education system that is aligned with our economy, and making sure we have a regulatory environment that is fair to business while at the same time meeting goals as a nation.”
Hobbies and Interests
When not working, Ferguson uses what little spare time he has to enjoy being with his wife, Buffy, and their four children. An avid sailor, it often involves going out on his sailboat on West Point Lake. Growing up in West Central Georgia, Ferguson says hunting and being outdoors has always been part of a lifestyle that he enjoys on a
Best Part of His Job
Ferguson enjoys many aspects of his job. He says he enjoys being part of a process where there are so many opportunities to get our nation back to the place where we know it needs to be for a strong vibrant economy. He also enjoys relationships developed in Congress on both sides of the aisle. “It is a fascinating process to be a part of and the amount of information that we get to be exposed to, process and legislate from. It is pretty amazing. I’ve never done anything that I’ve had as much fun with as representing the third district of Georgia,” he says.