Fact checking President Barack Obama’s health care speech from last night, the Associated Press reports: “The president’s speech to Congress contained a variety of oversimplifications and omissions in laying out what he wants to do about health insurance.” That is an understatement. We counted no less than 15 spurious claims made by the President, including:
1. OBAMA: “There are now more than thirty million American citizens who cannot get coverage.”
THE FACTS: On August 8th, President Obama said: “Reform is obviously essential for the 46 million Americans who don’t have health insurance.” So did 16 million uninsured people just disappear in the span of two months? Not quite. The problem is that the 46 million number was always highly misleading and the new 30 million number isn’t much better. According to an analysis based on the 2007 Census data there were 45.7 million uninsured people in the U.S. in 2007. But 9.3 million of those were non-citizens. Another 6.4 million actually are enrolled in Medicaid but mistakenly tell the Census they have no health insurance. Another 4.3 million are eligible for Medicaid or SCHIP but have not signed up. Another 10 million have no insurance, but also make more than 3X the poverty level. That means only 15.6 million U.S. citizens with incomes below 300% of poverty and that are nor already eligible for taxpayer-subsidized health insurance, are uninsured.
2. OBAMA: “First, if you are among the hundreds of millions of Americans who already have health insurance through your job, Medicare, Medicaid, or the VA, nothing in this plan will require you or your employer to change the coverage or the doctor you have. Let me repeat this: nothing in our plan requires you to change what you have.”
THE FACTS: First, the statement is just false. According to the America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) 4.5 million Americans are covered by Health Savings Accounts. H.R. 3200 gives the Secretary of Health and Human Services the authority to make such plans illegal. In both the House Energy and Commerce Committee mark up and the House Ways and Means Committee mark up, Republicans offered amendments that would have guaranteed Americans’ right to keep their Health Saving’s account. All of these amendments were defeated by Democrats on their respective committees. These 4.5 million Americans will lose their insurance under Obamacare
Second, Americans should never forget that Obama is a lawyer. Here is how Obama used to issue the same promise: “Under the reform we’re proposing, if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan.” See the difference? Obama used to promise that under his plan “you can keep your doctor.” But now Americans are only promised that nothing in the plan “requires you to change what you have.” This is a night and day difference. Obama is correct that nothing in H.R. 3200 requires people to change their insurance. But H.R. 3200 does allow all businesses to shift their employees into the public plan over time. Under a strong public plan 88.1 million people would be shifted from their employer-sponsored coverage to the federal plan.
3. OBAMA: “And insurance companies will be required to cover, with no extra charge, routine checkups and preventive care … That makes sense, it saves money, and it saves lives.”
THE FACTS: Preventative care does not save money. So says the Congressional Budget Office and so says the New England Journal of Medicine.
4. OBAMA: “That’s why under my plan, individuals will be required to carry basic health insurance – just as most states require you to carry auto insurance.”
THE FACTS: No states require all adults, let alone all citizens, to carry auto insurance. Only those who choose to exercise their privilege to drive are required to purchase auto insurance. Even with that requirement, many still don’t. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), a federal individual mandate for health insurance would be unique and unprecedented because it would “impose a duty on individuals as members of society” and would “require people to purchase a specific service that would be heavily regulated” by the government. According to President Barack Obama HHS nominee Dr. Sherry Glied: “Developing a system to promptly identify and penalize scofflaws will take effort and ingenuity, particularly in our diverse and mobile country. It may require a degree of intrusiveness and bureaucracy that some will find unpalatable.”
5. OBAMA: “There are also those who claim that our reform effort will insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false – the reforms I’m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.”
THE FACTS: H.R. 3200 does not explicitly pay for health benefits for illegal immigrants. It never has, and no one has ever said that it did. The issue is enforcement and the provisions in H.R. 3200 are completely inadequate to ensure that illegal immigrants do not illegally obtain health care through the bill. In the House Ways and Means mark up of H.R. 3200, Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV) introduced an amendment that would use two citizenship status verification systems, the Income and Eligibility Verification System (IEVS) and Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) programs, to establish an individual’s eligibility to obtain the bill’s proposed affordability credits or enroll in the public insurance option. Both programs are currently used to determine citizenship status and eligibility for other public assistance programs. The Heller amendment failed on a straight party-line vote.
6. OBAMA: “And one more misunderstanding I want to clear up – under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions, and federal conscience laws will remain in place.”
THE FACTS: In all four mark-ups of health care legislation (three in the House and one in the Senate), Conservatives have offered amendments that would have specifically prohibited federal funds from being used to cover abortion. None of them passed. Instead, the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed an amendment by Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA) that actually requires at least one insurance plan to cover abortion in every geographical region and requires the newly-created public plan to cover all abortion services. Furthermore, President Obama told Planned Parenthood on July17, 2007: “We’re going to set up a public plan that all persons and all women can access if they don’t have health insurance. It will be a plan that will provide all essential services, including reproductive services.” Candidate Obama either was not telling the truth to Planned Parenthood then or President Obama is not telling the truth to the American people now.
7. OBAMA: “They argue that these private companies can’t fairly compete with the government. And they’d be right if taxpayers were subsidizing this public insurance option. But they won’t be. I have insisted that like any private insurance company, the public insurance option would have to be self-sufficient and rely on the premiums it collects.”
THE FACTS: Obama refutes his own argument in the same paragraph: “It would also keep pressure on private insurers to keep their policies affordable and treat their customers better, the same way public colleges and universities provide additional choice and competition to students without in any way inhibiting a vibrant system of private colleges and universities.” No public university is self-sufficient. None of them rely solely on student tuition. All of them require taxpayer subsidies every year.
8. OBAMA: “I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits – either now or in the future. Period. And to prove that I’m serious, there will be a provision in this plan that requires us to come forward with more spending cuts if the savings we promised don’t materialize.”
THE FACTS: According to the Congressional Budget Office, not only does H.R. 3200 increase the deficit by $239 billion in just the first ten years, but CBO director Doug Elmendorf told Congress that the bills crafted by House leaders and the Senate health committee “significantly expands the federal responsibility for health care costs.” And according to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, H.R. 3200 would run a $1,010 billion deficit in the second decade.
9. OBAMA: “Reducing the waste and inefficiency in Medicare and Medicaid will pay for most of this plan.”
THE FACTS: The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that Title VI of the House bill dealing with Medicare program integrity will save just $1.3 billion over ten years. That is roughly how much Medicare spends in a single day. CBO estimates ZERO savings from Subtitle F in the House bill that deals with Medicaid program integrity.
10. OBAMA: “This reform will charge insurance companies a fee for their most expensive policies, which will encourage them to provide greater value for the money – an idea which has the support of Democratic and Republican experts. And according to these same experts, this modest change could help hold down the cost of health care for all of us in the long-run.”
THE FACTS: These “fees” are nothing more than taxes hidden behind a thin veil of “fairness” rhetoric. They would actually fall on ordinary Americans, not insurance executives or stockholders. When you buy something that is subject to a sales tax who pays the tax – you or the vendor? Just look at the line “sales tax” on your bill. And if you tax insurance companies the cost is passed through in the same way.