I guess we shouldn’t be terribly surprised, after the emergence of bogeymen like Tonsil Vultures and Foot Fiends from the imagination of Barack Obama, when the President can’t get medical issues correct, especially off the TelePrompter. But we should expect Obama to get the law right.  When answering questions about health-care costs in the Facebook townhall last week, the President explained that hospitals profit by screwing up (h/t Virginia M):

It’s also, though, how we reimburse doctors and how we reimburse hospitals.  So right now, what happens is, when you’ve taken those two tests, if you’re old enough to qualify for Medicare, well, each doctor sends their bill to Medicare and Medicare pays both bills.  And let’s say that you end up getting an operation.  They’ll send the bill for that, and Medicare pays that.  Let’s say they didn’t do a very good job, or you got sick in the hospital, and you are readmitted and you have to be treated again and they have to do the operation all over again.  Medicare then gets billed for the second operation.

Wow!  That sounds like a pretty bad problem, all right.  That’s why Republicans fixed the problemin 2005:

Under new Medicare regulations, hospitals will no longer receive higher payments for the additional costs associated with treating patients for certain hospital-acquired infections and medical errors. The new rules will give hospitals a powerful new incentive to improve patient care, according to Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports. …

Under the rules adopted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), payments will be withheld from hospitals for care associated with treating certain catheter-associated urinary tract infections, vascular catheter-associated infections, mediastinitis after coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery, and five other medical errors unrelated to infections (bed sores, objects left in patients’ bodies, blood incompatibility, air embolism, and falls). The new rules will go into effect in October 2008.

To comply with a 2005 law passed by Congress, CMS evaluated a number of serious, preventable health care acquired conditions and identified these eight for the first round of non-payment due to the high volume of patients affected, the high cost of treating patients, and the existence of prevention guidelines. The agency intends to consider other hospital acquired infections and medical errors for non-payment in future years.

The new Medicare regulations include protections to prevent hospitals from billing patients when payments are withheld and to minimize avoidance of patients perceived to be at risk for infections. “We are pleased that the rules clearly state that hospitals cannot bill patients for the amount that Medicare refuses to pay,” said McGiffert. “CMS will need to make sure these protections are enforced so patients are treated fairly. And the agency should be on the lookout for hospitals that try to game the system by falsifying codes to avoid nonpayment.”

Now, Barack Obama should remember this well enough, since he was in the Senate when it passed S.1932 in December 2005.  Obama had just finished up his first year in the upper chamber, well before the grizzled veteran of Capitol Hill decided to run for President with all of two full years in national office.  It’s not like the vote was a dull affair, either; the vote was 50/50, and Vice President Dick Cheney had to cast the tiebreaker for the bill to pass.

And how did Obama vote?  Nay.

Note: I will be on vacation from tomorrow through May 8th.  I’ll pick up the OOTD feature and the poll when I return to the country in May, so there will be no poll this Sunday.  Meanwhile, keep the suggestions rolling in!

Got an Obamateurism of the Day? If you see a foul-up by Barack Obama, e-mail it to me at [email protected] with the quote and the link to the Obamateurism. I’ll post the best Obamateurisms on a daily basis, depending on how many I receive. Include a link to your blog, and I’ll give some link love as well. And unlike Slate, I promise to end the feature when Barack Obama leaves office.

Illustrations by Chris Muir of Day by Day. Be sure to read the adventures of Sam, Zed, Damon, and Jan every day!