The Doctor as Legislator, and Vice Versa: StudioTulsa on Health Welcomes Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK)

Sep 27, 2013

"The big problem I see in the practice of medicine today is [that] our payment scheme makes it where we violate the first rule of medicine, which is: Listen to your patient and they'll tell you what's wrong. And we don't allow anybody the time to do that anymore." So says our guest on this edition of StudioTulsa on Health, U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, a Republican who's been the junior senator from Oklahoma since January of 2005. (Coburn was re-elected to a second term in 2010 and has pledged not to seek a third term in 2016.) Coburn continues: "We have incentivized doctors to order tests and not listen to their patients. And that's not true across the board, but there is certainly that pressure on our doctors, because the payment rates have come down so much and the overhead has gone up so much, and now with the mandate from the Affordable Case Act, that you must have electronic medical records, and you must do these things...all these things that are building up...[and] that are hitting the practice of medicine today, they take a lot of the enjoyment and the pleasure of serving people out of it." That is, out of being a doctor in the first place. A fiscal and social conservative who previously represented Oklahoma's 2nd Congressional District in the U.S. House --- and who before that was for many years an "an old-time G.P." (as he puts it) --- Sen. Coburn speaks with guest host John Henning Schumann about when and why he became a physician, when and why he chose to enter politics, and how these two pursuits have influenced one another in terms of his life, outlook, and career. A longtime critic of the Affordable Care Act, and before that of "the legal liability questions [and] aggressive lawyers" that have infiltrated the American medical landscape over the last generation or so, Sen. Coburn also addresses what he calls the "biggest problem in our country today...the leadership in both parties [and] the worsening and worsening division [on both sides of the aisle]." He adds: "This republic only works when you're willing to compromise."