The American College of Surgeons this week announced it was, as a body, "deeply disturbed" over the "uninformed public comments President Obama continues to make about the state of surgical care in the US." The organization refers to a recent (August 11, 2009) Town Hall meeting, captured on video here.
In a strongly worded press release, the organization chided Obama for making "statements that are incorrect or not based in fact." The organization says that the President is doing a disservice to the American people at a time when they want clear, understandable facts about health care reform. It also suggested that although the Obama may have stated falsehoods unintentionally, it urged him to check his facts in the future before making additional inflammatory and incorrect statements about surgeons and surgical care.
The organization offered corrections to a few of Obama's recent "misstatements":
For example, on Monday during a town hall meeting, President Obama wrongly 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.