BY KENNY BELFORD
At one of Sen. Tom Coburn’s Town Hall meetings, a woman attended and was so emotional and in such obvious distress, at times she could barely be understood through her tears and anguish. It was as if this was her last resort and she knew it.
She came to see the senator out of sheer desperation, to beg for help. Her husband was home suffering from a brain trauma. Their insurance company had declined coverage, and the nursing home where he had been receiving care turned them out, even though he had a feeding tube implanted, informing them, “You’re on your own.” She asked Sen. Coburn for help, adding that their insurance company wouldn’t even cover helping him drink.
It was a heart-wrenching story, but the video that aired on CNN showed the crowd in attendance was unmoved. Unmoved, that is, until Sen. Coburn responded. First, he informed her that his office would look in to it; then he told the distraught woman two astounding things. He told her that her neighbors should be the ones helping. That brought a reaction from the crowd, a round of applause. Then he said to her, “The idea that the government is a solution to our problems is an inaccurate, a very inaccurate statement.” There was an immediate burst of approving applause from the crowd for that remark.
It was the senator’s comments, and response it drew from the crowd that made the video worthy of national media attention.
The government that Sen. Coburn said shouldn’t help her is the same government that created the rules and regulations that allowed the insurance company to decline coverage. Obviously, the insurance company got help from the government, but in his view there should be no help for our citizens.
Then there’s the part about who Sen. Coburn is. Before he became Sen. Coburn he was Dr. Coburn, a practicing MD from Muskogee. If he had a patient suffering from a condition as serious as this, would it be his professional medical advice to get out of the nursing home with a feeding tube, and just go home? “You’re on your own.” Is that what Dr. Coburn would inform them? “There’s no help you deserve from your government or medical practitioners, just go ask your neighbors for help.” Is that what Dr. Coburn would tell the family? What if there were no neighbors skilled in medical care of critical patients? Would Dr. Coburn accept the liability for this advice, which he was comfortable dispensing as Sen. Coburn?
As tragic as the woman’s story was, the real appalling part – that reflects on all of us – was the enthusiastic round of supporting applause from the crowd as Sen. Coburn informed her she didn’t merit help. What have we become?
– Kenny Belford lives in Tulsa, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer