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FactCheck Mailbag, Week of Feb. 9-Feb. 15

This week, readers sent us comments on government health coverage, chain e-mails and idealism about the press. In the FactCheck Mailbag, we feature some of the e-mail we receive.

Readers can send comments to editor@factcheck.org. Letters may be edited for length.

Air Ball Referees

Love your site, love your honesty, thank you very much.

I want to discuss this article "Obama’s Air Ball" [Feb. 10]. I didn’t hear the quote in person, but I am thinking your interpretation of his statement may be incorrect. You said "there are still more people with private health insurance than government-sponsored insurance." I am not so sure that was the intention of his statement — that more people HAVE government-sponsored insurance than private health insurance. I think he meant more people acquired government insurance than acquired private health insurance.

What are the details between existing government insured and new policies, and existing private insured and new policies? Is there data available?

Herman Abinette
Fredricksburg, Va.

The only government insurance listed in the article was Medicare and Medicaid. Wouldn’t insurance offered in individual states run by the states be considered "government" insurance? And shouldn’t those numbers be included in this analysis? Like California has Calmed, Wisconsin has Badgercare, Massachusetts has its own state run insurance offered to everyone in their state, and I am sure there are more states that have programs. Also, did those figures include Tricare, which covers military and retired military personnel? I think this article needs to be updated and all inclusive of "all government" insurance plans.

Kathy Cseri
Reedsburg, Wisc.

FactCheck.org responds: We can only critique what the president said, not what he possibly meant to say. The White House did not respond to our request for clarification on the president’s claim or its source.

The Centers for Medicare &  Medicaid Services’ reports on national health care spending do take into consideration other federal government programs besides Medicare and Medicaid, as well as state and local government health care programs.


Breaking the Chain

This is a response to an earlier e-mail you posted, regarding FactCheck debunking so many e-mails [Jan. 26-Feb. 1]. They are often "obviously" fake and many people realize that getting something sensational in a chain letter is pretty much proof in and of itself that it’s a fake. However, debunking these e-mails is quite valuable to people, like myself, who receive them from family members. I don’t need extra proof that "Obama is a Muslim" is a lie, but my family members sometimes do. It’s wonderful to have a site I trust where I can go and find the truth behind the rumor in question, backed up with real sources (try finding proper citations in a chain letter). I reply to the e-mails with links to appropriate articles, and on at least one occasion, the original sender attempted to instigate a reverse-chain with a link I provided. We can’t say how far back it went, but at least 2 or 3 people were given a chance to reevaluate what they had believed to be true. And isn’t that, after all, the entire point? It’s sad that people still think a chain letter is a reliable source of information, but while so many are out there, I appreciate having you as my go-to site for refuting and stopping the further spread of such false information.

Sara Miller
Portland, Ore.

Isn’t there a way to trace false and malicious e-mails back to their origin to expose the source and source’s lack of credibility?

Larry Ranney
Arvada, Colo.

FactCheck.org responds: Rarely can a chain e-mail be traced to its original source. There are just too many twists and turns, as people forward e-mails to other people, who forward them to yet more people, while the claim takes on the status of an urban legend through sheer repetition. When e-mails cite a source, such as an eyewitness account or an academic paper, we try to verify that source. But when there’s no source cited, we recommend treating anonymous e-mails as you would any other anonymous slur — with great caution.


Press Ideals

Am I a delusional idealist or was there something in the Bill of Rights about having a free press to keep an eye on those in power? I don’t know. If you don’t want to be the daily headline, don’t abuse the power or better yet use the power for good. Personally, I haven’t decided if power or greed is truly the root of all evil. I guess things just aren’t as simple as I would like them to be.

Whenever I get an e-mail about legislation, I go to your website for confirmation — and forward a link to the sender too.

Natalie Nestor
Alexandria, Va.