The Hill’s Web M.D.s

Coburn and Barrasso Will See You Now

Posted August 4, 2009 at 3:28pm

Got a question about health care legislation? What about a gripe about the cost of medical care in this country?

Two Senate doctors — Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) — have the answer, and it’s all available on their new live Web series, “The Senate Doctors Show.— Viewers submit questions in a variety of ways — e-mail, Twitter and even video encounters on the street — and get answers from two men who can clearly tackle health care from a variety of angles, especially policy and medical practice, albeit with a Republican slant. The show is hosted by the Senate Republicans and can be found at republican.senate.gov.

Since early July, Coburn and Barrasso have sat down twice a week to host the online show and answer questions submitted by citizens across the country.

On a recent show, one viewer asked how the government is going to pay for the health care legislation. Another viewer asked why people who have health insurance that they are happy with have to give it up to benefit people who don’t have insurance. Another concerned citizen wondered whether the legislation will reform tort law.

Coburn, who specializes in family medicine, and Barrasso, an orthopedic surgeon, are “just trying to share information with folks around the country,— Barrasso says.

The program streams live to a Web site on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and it runs for just less than 30 minutes. Barrasso and Coburn answer roughly three or four questions per show, such as how the health care legislation will affect people who already have insurance or how to deal with the mounting cost of the bill.

We are “trying to see some transparency in what is going on,— Coburn says of the show.

The program was conceived by GOP Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) when he realized that the only two doctors in the Senate were in his Conference.

“The Senate Doctors Show’ is a simple concept that’s working remarkably well,— Alexander says. “When it comes to health care, most Americans naturally trust doctors above anybody else.—

During the show, Coburn and Barrasso speak of Washington, D.C., as though it is a distant place where they are just outsiders, more doctors than politicians. Some viewers might even get the impression that the two Senators are simply doctors who have no hand in the health care brouhaha.

While the two refrain from saying “Democrat,— “Republican— or “President Barack Obama,— it is clear within moments of watching the show that it is designed to promote the GOP line. One question on a recent show asked why the health care bill included funding for parks and hiking paths. Coburn replied that it was Sen. Tom Harkin’s (D-Iowa) doing, adding that it is an example of how “off center— the bill is.

When asked about the partisan nature of the show, both Senators said politics had nothing to do with it. “We’re not trying to make it partisan,— Coburn said after a recent taping. “This isn’t about Democrats or Republicans. This is about what’s best for America.—

Since it began airing in July, “The Senate Doctors Show— has been receiving thousands of hits each time it airs online. At press time, the show’s Twitter feed had more than 1,200 followers.

Coburn and Barrasso say they hope the show helps the average American learn as much about the health care legislation as possible. In the end, the two say they are just trying to help their patients.

“I go home every weekend and talk to my patients and listen to their needs,— Barrasso says. “I’m looking for a solution for better health care for the people of Wyoming.—