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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Overstated Stats

Congressional Republicans appearing on CBS’ "Face the Nation" repeated a couple of false claims we’ve talked about before.

The first guest, Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, inflated some statistics when he talked about opposition to the health care bill. His claim, that 60 percent of Americans support repealing the bill, was immediately countered by host Bob Schieffer, who pointed out: "Well, you know, a new poll out this morning in the Washington Post does not suggest that a majority of Americans are against this, but what it does show is the country is still deeply divided. It says 46 percent support this, 50 percent oppose it."

Schieffer is right. Fifty percent of those polled said they disapproved of the legislation, and most of those (40 percent) "strongly" disapproved. Of those who opposed the changes, 86 percent said they’d support an effort to repeal. In all, the Post reports, 46 percent of those polled supported the new health care legislation, and 46 percent both opposed it and would support an effort to change it. That’s far from the mandate DeMint claims. A more recent USA Today/Gallup poll showed very similar overall numbers — 47 percent in favor, 50 percent against — though that poll didn’t ask about repeal. An earlier poll by Rasmussen Reports, taken in the two days after the president signed the bill into law, found that 55 percent of respondents favored repealing the legislation.

DeMint also said that "over half the doctors already don’t take Medicaid." He had just been telling Schieffer about letters that his office was receiving from physicians, and if he means those doctors specifically, he may be right — we don’t know. But we do know, and have said, that far fewer than half of all doctors refuse to take any Medicaid patients. A 2008 survey by the Center for Studying Health System Change found that only 28 percent of doctors nationwide wouldn’t accept any new Medicaid patients, and 53 percent accepted most or all of them.

Schieffer’s second guest, Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, claimed that "now we have the federal government … taking over ownership or control of 51 percent of the American economy." That’s 18 percent of the economy from health care, and the rest from "direct ownership or control of banks, the largest insurance company in the United States, AIG, Freddie and Fannie," plus direct student loans, Chrysler and GM.

Bachmann may not be too far off in saying health care is 18 percent of the economy. The World Health Organization put U.S. health spending at 15.3 percent of GDP in 2006, and a 2008 article in the journal Health Affairs projected it would reach 16.3 percent in 2007 and 19.5 percent by 2017.

But according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, total government expenditures haven’t been near half of GDP since 1944. In 2009, they were 20.6 percent. Bachmann spokesman Dave Dziok told CBS News that the lawmaker based her figures on an estimate from an Arizona State University professor, William Boyes, who said that the government controls a third of the economy by loaning to or regulating companies like Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG, General Motors and Chrysler. Dziok reasons this has become 51 percent after the passage of health care legislation.

But as we’ve said time and again, the government isn’t "taking ownership" of health care. Insurance will still be provided by private companies, and care will still be provided by private doctors.

Bachmann also said that "President Obama’s own numbers, his own economic advisor, Christina Romer, said that Obamacare could cost the economy five and a half million jobs lost." Romer never said that. The figure is likely related to a misrepresentation of Romer’s work from the Republican staff of the House Ways and Means Committee — one that had to do with a provision in an early version of the House bill, not the modified Senate bill that was passed. Using a methodology Romer developed, the Ways and Means GOP said that the bill would kill 4.7 million jobs. Our colleagues at Politifact found the claim to be false, and took issue with the GOP’s math. We asked Bachmann’s office to explain the discrepancy between the 4.7 million claim we’ve seen before and the 5.5 million she cited, but we haven’t received a response.