A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

There He Goes Again: Obama’s False $6,000 Claim


At a nationally televised "town hall meeting" in Portsmouth, N.H., today, President Obama repeated a claim about health care that we’ve disputed in the past.

Obama: So we want – if I’m a customer, if I’m a consumer and I know that I’m overpaying $6,000 for anything else, I would immediately want the best deal. But for some reason, in health care, we continue to put up with getting a bad deal. We’re paying $6,000 more than any other advanced country and we’re not healthier for it – $6,000 per person more, per year. That doesn’t make any sense.

He used the same $6,000 figure in his health care news conference on July 22. At the time, we said he was exaggerating the discrepancy between U.S. spending on health care and that of other nations. Today, Obama went beyond misleading to false when he said that the amount is "$6,000 per person more, per year."

In the July 22 news conference Obama said "we’re spending on average, we here in the United States are spending about $6,000 more than other advanced countries" on health care, but he didn’t specify whether he was speaking of spending per person, per family or per household. The White House told us that Obama’s figure was based on spending per family, not per person. The Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development produces definitive figures about health care spending but doesn’t actually offer an estimate of per-family spending. White House officials said they had done their own calculations to arrive at a figure of $6,000 per family.

In fact, the U.S. spends about $7,000 per person per year in total, according to OECD figures. We spend about $2,500 more per person than the next highest-spending country, not $6,000.