And in making their "correction," they didn't bother quoting his actual words; which is generally a sign that perhaps the words are being misrepresented. And in my attempt to locate his actual words, I read lots of conservatives who repeated the statement, without quoting his words or providing any context.
I wonder why that was...
Here's what they said:
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.The Truth
Here's Obama's words:
On the doctors front, one of the things we could do is to reimburse doctors who are providing preventive care and not just surgeon who provides care after somebody is sick. Nothing against surgeons. I want surgeons. I don't want to be getting a bunch of letters from surgeons now.And the point here is clear: Obama is saying that we'll save money by paying primary care physicians to prevent diabetes rather than amputate people's feet after it's too late. And that's simply undeniable. Not that cost savings is the only reason we should avoid foot amputations, but in the context of defending the costs of his health plan, this makes perfect sense.
I'm not dissing surgeons here. All I'm saying is, let's take the example of something like diabetes, a disease that's skyrocketing, partly because of obesity, partly because it's not treated as effectively as it could be.
Right now, if we paid a family -- if a family care physician works with his or her patient to help them lose weight, modify diet, monitors whether they are taking their medications in a timely fashion, they might get reimbursed a pittance. But, if that same diabetic ends up getting their foot amputated, that's $30,000, $40,000, $50,000, immediately, the surgeon is reimbursed.
Well, ,why not make sure that we are also reimbursing the care that prevents the amputation? Right? That will save us money.
And he wasn't saying that surgeons get paid $50k for the amputation. That wouldn't make any sense, because he's trying to explain how expensive amputation is. And if Obama thought surgeons received $50k for amputation, then his full figure for amputation would have been much higher and he would have gone with the bigger number. And while I understand how his meaning may have been misconstrued, it's obvious from context what his intent was. Again, the point was the expense of amputations; not the fee collected by the surgeon.
And in case you were wondering, this study claims "nontraumatic lower extremity amputation" cost between $40k-$75k in 2003; per the VA's numbers, which sometimes includes both feet. And so yeah, the numbers Obama quoted are in line with how much amputations cost, so I'd say that this is what he was referring to. (And yes, I wanted a better number here, but was having trouble finding one.)
Conservatives Got it Wrong
And in NO CASE was he smearing surgeons as greedy or suggesting that they opposed preventive care in order to pad their bank accounts. He explicitly said he wasn't trying to "diss" surgeons. The point was merely about how expensive amputations are, not complaining about how much surgeons make or besmirching their ethical standards.
While the surgeons group said they were merely trying to set the record straight, conservatives hopped right on the Slam Obama train, insisting that he was smearing surgeons while either lying or making shit up. But what else was to be expected when they didn't even bother reading his words? And so this attack on Obama's claim was entirely wrong. Yet all the same, conservatives were quite happy to repeat it, without bothering to check it out for themselves.
And why not? After all, Obama's a commie socialist, so of course he'd attack surgeons for being greedy. It's true because they want it to be true. And I've found this to be all too typical of what's coming from the right. They're so eager to finally find something wrong with Obama that they'll leap onto anything they can get their hands on; reality be damned.