We agree with President Obama on the importance of prevention. However, a recent example used to illustrate his important point was misleading. Surgeons are not paid $30,000 to $50,000 to amputate a diabetic’s foot.
Medicare pays a surgeon, on average, from $541.72 to $708.71 for one of two procedures involving a foot amputation. It is possible that the total bill, hospital stay, rehabilitation, prosthesis, etc. may approach the larger amount mentioned.
In the case of tonsillectomies, a patient is referred to a surgeon after medication therapy has proven to be ineffective. Actually, the medical profession itself recognized questions about utilization and appropriateness of tonsillectomies and took action by developing clinical guidelines, which has resulted in a sharp decline in the rate of tonsillectomies.
These types of examples create the impression that physicians are motivated by payment levels rather than what is best for patients.
The AMA will continue to stress to our elected leaders that physicians are dedicated to putting patients first and optimizing health care quality.