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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Obama’s Speech and Those Frivolous Earmarks

President Obama spoke to a joint session of Congress Tuesday night, and we caught several factual errors and misstatements in his remarks. See our full story on FactCheck.org for all the details. Here’s just one item we found:

Obama exaggerated a bit in describing the Children’s Health Insurance Program that was recently reauthorized by Congress:

Obama: When it was days old, this Congress passed a law to provide and protect health insurance for 11 million American children whose parents work full time.

The 11 million figure is correct; it’s the “work full time” phrase that caught our attention. It’s true that CHIP (formerly known as SCHIP) is designed for children in families that earn too much to qualify for health care under Medicaid but not enough to buy insurance on their own. But there is no stipulation that parents must work “full time.” Mary Kahn, spokeswoman at the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services, told us: “The CHIP program is targeted primarily to children of low-income working families. But there is no requirement that the families be working full time or part time, simply that their income meet that particular state’s requirement.” State eligibility rules differ, but generally they target families making under about 200 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $44,100 this year for a family of four.

And in case you were wondering about some of the Republican claims of earmarks in the stimulus package — for things like levitating trains and Frisbee golf courses — check out our article “GOP Stimulus Myths.” Many of their descriptions either aren’t true or are a big stretch.