Obama's Health Care News Conference
July 23, 2009
Facts vs. Obama
President Obama tried to sell his health care overhaul in prime time, mangling some facts in the process. He also strained to make the job sound easier to pay for than experts predict.
With the health care debate on Capitol Hill raging on, President Barack Obama held a prime-time news conference July 22 to make his pitch for a health care bill once again to the American public. Among his facts and figures, we found some false and questionable statements.
Paying For It
CRFB: More access and broader coverage do not save money, however. Greater coverage will increase health spending. Unless major changes are successfully implemented in health care delivery and payment systems, costs will continue to rise from a larger base at a rapid pace. Moreover, potential savings are speculative, while costs are far more certain. That imbalance suggests that unless there is broad popular support for the measures that will be required to achieve savings, the nation’s health care bill could become that much more unaffordable.
Obama went on to say that “the entire cost of that has to be paid for and it has got to be deficit-neutral. And we identified two-thirds of those costs to be paid for by tax dollars that are already being spent right now.”
The president exaggerated the number of persons who would be covered by his health care plan.
Obama: So the plan that has been – that I put forward and that what we're seeing in Congress would cover – the estimates are – at least 97 percent to 98 percent of Americans.
That's true of the House health care bill, but it's far from the truth about Obama's plan proposed when he was running for president.
Obama repeated a claim about uncompensated care that we've already said was unjustified:
Obama: And, in fact, there's going to be a whole lot of savings that we obtain from that because, for example, the average American family is paying thousands of dollars in hidden costs in their insurance premiums to pay for what's called uncompensated care – people who show up at the emergency room because they don't have a primary care physician.
We wrote about this back in June, when Obama said that "the average family pays a thousand dollars in extra premiums to pay for people going to the emergency room who don't have health insurance." This came from a report by the health care advocacy group Families USA, which estimated that people with private family insurance paid an extra $1,017 in premiums to cover the cost of uncompensated care to the uninsured; individuals paid $368 extra. But the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation took issue with that estimate, saying that they were "highly skeptical" that the rising cost of insurance premiums had much to do with cost-shifting, because much of the uncompensated costs would not be passed on to premium payers. KFF's estimate of actual cost shifting amounted to more like $200 per family annually.
In his press conference, Obama added even more to families' premiums, saying they paid "thousands" more to cover uncompensated care. That's not what the Families USA study found, and even that group's $1,000 estimate has been disputed.
A $5 Trillion Whopper?
The president claimed he has cut federal spending by more than $2 trillion.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office doesn’t agree that Obama’s budget has “reduced federal spending” at all. Quite the opposite. His budget calls for vastly increased spending, according to CBO.
Last month CBO estimated that total federal spending, without the changes Obama proposed in his budget, would be just under $39 trillion over the next 10 years. It also estimated that if Congress adopted the president's budget, spending would increase to more than $41.7 trillion over the same period. As a percentage of the economy, CBO figured that federal spending would rise from 22.1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) under current law, to 23.7 percent under Obama's budget proposals.
U.S. vs. The Rest of the World
Obama exaggerated the discrepancy between U.S. and foreign health care costs:
In fact, the U.S. spends nearly $7,000 per person total, or nearly $2,500 more than the next highest-spending country, according to the most recent completed data from the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development.
We contacted the Office of Management and Budget, where an official told us that Obama's figure represents costs per family, not per person. Obama didn't specify that, and the authoritative OECD figures on which he relied don't offer a per-family cost. The OMB official said the administration multiplied the per-capita spending by 3.3 to get a family figure (roughly the average number of persons living in family households). This yields closer to an $8,000 difference than $6,000, however, so we're still unsure of how Obama got his figure. In any case, using a per-family figure without identifying it as such is misleading, since millions of Americans live alone, and per-capita spending is the standard used for making such comparisons.
– by Lori Robertson, Brooks Jackson and Jess Henig
Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. "Health Care and The Federal Budget." Jul 2009.
Montgomery, Lori, and Shailagh Murray. "Budget Analyst Assails Cost of Congress's Health-Care Proposals." The Washington Post. 23 Jul 2009.
Congressional Budget Office. Letter to Rep. Charles B. Rangel. 17 Jul 2009.
Congressional Budget Office. Letter to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. 2 Jul 2009.
Congressional Budget Office. Letter to Rep. Mike Crapo. 18 May 2009.
Congressional Budget Office. "Comparison of Projected Revenues, Outlays, and Deficits in CBO’s Baseline and CBO’s Estimate of the President’s Budget." Jun 2009.
Office of Management and Budget. "Updated Summary Tables; Budget of the U.S. Government, Fiscal Year 2010." May 2009.
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Health Data 2009 database. accessed 23 Jul 2009.
Hadley, Jack et al. "Covering the Uninsured in 2008: A Detailed Examination of Current Costs and Sources of Payment, and Incremental Costs of Expanding Coverage." Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured. Aug. 2008.
Families USA. "Hidden Health Tax: Americans Pay a Premium." May 2009.
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