The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

6 April 2005

Out of practice

I think I'd rather herd cats than to try to keep track of all the Congressional ethics rules. Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) has been given until the end of September to close down his medical practice in Muskogee; the Senate Select Committee on Ethics has decided that it's an unacceptable conflict of interest, citing Senate rules from the last couple of decades that basically forbid the practice of outside professions in general.

Coburn ran into no such less onerous difficulties when he served in the House, which has a different set of rules governing outside income. He's vowed to fight back; in the meantime, he has said that he will continue to treat his existing patients through the end of the year, but will not accept payments from them after the 30 September deadline. (He stopped taking new patients after assuming his Senate seat.)

James Joyner offers a suggestion:

[Bill] Frist is within the rules because he practices medicine only abroad and does not collect money. Coburn says that he only accepts enough to pay for malpractice insurance and other necessary expenses, making no profit. There has to be some way for him to practice, pro bono, as part of a hospital or other medical office in Oklahoma, keeping in touch with his constituents, keeping his pledge, and yet staying within ethics guidelines.

I think this would be a reasonable solution, if it could be arranged to the satisfaction of the Select Committee on Ethics. Perhaps at a teaching hospital?

(Updated as per comments.)

Posted at 9:12 PM to Political Science Fiction


Rep. Coburn indeed had difficulties attempting to continue his medical practice while in the House. He bucked the threats and ended up getting special consideration in disregarding ethics rules.

"Rep. Tom Coburn and the House ethics committee have reached an agreement that allows the doctor-legislator to continue to practice medicine in Oklahoma while also serving in Congress"

I remember it as his first significant defiance of the status quo.

Posted by: MikeH at 1:09 PM on 7 April 2005

Since jumping back into the filthy lucre that is private pracitce, a litte insight in the OB/GYN situation:

Hospitals require malpractice insurance in order to have privileges. So, in order to keep his privileges to deliver babies, Sen. Coburn would need to charge enough to cover the approximately $60,000.00 in malpractice insurance, which is probably a low estimate, but is based on other coverages for OB/GYN's I have seen in the past few months.

That is chunk of change, and more than most people make in a year.

Posted by: Chris at 10:40 AM on 8 April 2005

Sixty K sounds like serious money to some of us poor, starving Democrats. :)

But it is clearly a necessary expense, and, well, he's not going to deliver babies in the back of a Dodge Caravan.

Posted by: CGHill at 6:35 PM on 8 April 2005