Wednesday, August 12, 2009

President Obama is articulate and, well, ill-informed

Okay, I think we all can agree that President Obama's performance at yesterday's town hall meeting in Portsmouth, New Hampshire did not win over any new converts to his cause of health care reform. Besides implying that his vaunted public option will work as well as the U.S. Postal Service and engaging in a bald-face lie about his prior support of a single payer system, President Obama accused doctors of amputating diabetics' limbs so that they could make more money:

Is it just me, or does President Obama seem to have a hard-on for doctors? I mean, he did previously accuse pediatricians of unnecessarily removing kids tonsils to make more money.

It appears that the American College of Surgeons might agree with this assessment. Here is what they had to say about President Obama's pontifications:

The American College of Surgeons is deeply disturbed over the uninformed public comments President Obama continues to make about the high-quality care provided by surgeons in the United States. When the President makes statements that are incorrect or not based in fact, we think he does a disservice to the American people at a time when they want clear, understandable facts about health care reform. We want to set the record straight.

-- Yesterday during a town hall meeting, President Obama got his facts completely wrong. He stated that a surgeon gets paid $50,000 for a leg amputation when, in fact, Medicare pays a surgeon between $740 and $1,140 for a leg amputation. This payment also includes the evaluation of the patient on the day of the operation
plus patient follow-up care that is provided for 90 days after the operation. Private insurers pay some variation of the Medicare reimbursement for this service.

-- Three weeks ago, the President suggested that a surgeon's decision to remove a child's tonsils is based on the desire to make a lot of money. That remark was ill-informed and dangerous, and we were dismayed by this characterization of the work surgeons do. Surgeons make decisions about recommending operations based on what's right for the patient.

We agree with the President that the best thing for patients with diabetes is to manage the disease proactively to avoid the bad consequences that can occur, including blindness, stroke, and amputation. But as is the case for a person who has been treated for cancer and still needs to have a tumor removed, or a person who is in a terrible car crash and needs access to a trauma surgeon, there are times when even a perfectly managed diabetic patient needs a surgeon. The President's remarks are truly alarming and run the risk of damaging the all-important trust between surgeons and their patients.

We assume that the President made these mistakes unintentionally, but we
would urge him to have his facts correct before making another inflammatory and
incorrect statement about surgeons and surgical care.

I really am not comforted when an organization made up of surgeons states that the President, whose biggest goal is to reform health care, is making "uninformed comments" about health care and has "got[ten] his facts completely wrong." Seriously, I used to worry that President Obama would lead us back to the days of President Carter. Now, I hope that is all the damage he does.

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