Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Interview with health leaders - Interview with Senator Tom Coburn, Democratic Food Fight

Yesterday I had the privilege of interviewing Senator Tom Coburn, M.D., a Republican Senator from Oklahoma who is up for re-election in November 2010. He is a family obstetrician and still practices three hours each Monday morning to stay in touch with the real world of clinical medicine. The interview will appear soon in I will not reproduce it here.

I shall simply say Doctor Coburn was even-minded and ever-handed. He did not gloat over Senator Scott Brown’s win in Massachusetts. He thought it had an impact for today, but did not know how it would affect November’s elections. If President Obama would swing back to the center, he said, he could reverse his political losses.

Coburn favored a market-driven system as the best way to allocate care and costs, but predicted liberal Democrats would never give up their DNA issue - their single-minded quest for a single-payer universal system. He said he honestly did not know if any health reform bill would pass, nor did speculate on chances for passage.

So much for the interview.

The news for today, as discussed interminably in, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the major television networks is about the food fight among Democrats. This fight is occurring among the more liberal House and the more conservative Senate, among those who don’t want to give up the health reform ghost ; among those who either want to pass a smaller bill; among those who want to declare it dead; among those who want to postpone it and to move on to what really concerns the American people - the economy, the national debt, the distressed middle class.

Reporters are gleefully tossing around bon mots of the past – Will Rodgers comment, “I do not belong to an organized political party, I’m a Democrat.” President Lyndon Johnson’s remark after emerging from a Democratic caucus, “ The difference between a caucus and a cactus is that with a cactus, all the pricks are on the outside.”

At this point, no one knows what solutions or political agendas will emerge. Perhaps President Obama will clarify things tonight in his State of Union address. Perhaps he will “reset” his aims. Perhaps he will carry on with his ambitions unchanged from before.

Meanwhile Senator Coburn says whatever happens, “What is ultimately good for patients will be good for doctors. If doctors are most concerned about their patients and the care they give, they will do just fine.”

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