September 10th, 2009
03:25 PM ET
5 years ago

In selling health care, Obama's numbers pick may be telling

President Obama's address to Congress Wednesday was heavily salted with statistics.
President Obama's address to Congress Wednesday was heavily salted with statistics.


WASHINGTON (CNN) -
President Obama's address to Congress Wednesday was heavily salted with statistics.

"There are now more than 30 million American citizens who cannot get coverage. In just a two year period, one in every three Americans goes without health care coverage at some point. And every day, 14,000 Americans lose their coverage," he said.

It's not a new approach - the president's health care speeches are generally awash in figures - but the choice of figures may be significant.

"Even for folks who are weathering this economic storm, and have health care right now, all it takes is one stroke of bad luck - an accident or an illness, a divorce, a lost job - to become one of the nearly 46 million uninsured or the millions who have health care, but really can't afford what they've got," President Obama said March 5 as he kicked off the health care summit at the White House.

Yesterday, a new night brought a new number - one which may reflect a conscious shift in emphasis on the president's part.


Throughout the last few months congressional Democrats as well as the President have been put on the defensive trying to rebut claims illegal immigrants would be able to get coverage.

In his Thursday briefing, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that the 30 million figure was used because the administration is limiting who can be covered and therefore he argued the different number is the most appropriate.

"The proposal that the president outlined covers American citizens. I think he was clear...the legislation does not cover, his plan would not cover illegal immigrants. If you subtract the rough estimate (of illegal immigrants) from that 46.3 million, you get a number that is somewhat unknown but in the 30s, that represents American citizens at the present," Gibbs said.

When reporters pressed, pointing out that as many as 16 million living in the United States would remain uninsured even if the bill passes, Gibbs repeated the emphasis on citizens. "I think the president ... would look at how many American citizens are covered under our proposal, rather than looking at different numbers that don't include Americans."

The original figure of 46 million uninsured has been hotly debated: is it accurate? where did it come from? does it include illegal immigrants?

The answers lie with the Census Bureau: It estimated in 2007, 45.7 million people living in America do not have health insurance.

Members of Congress faced questions about the figure in their summer town halls, with some who opposed including illegal immigrants in a new health care plan saying that total included non-citizens.

"Twelve million of those are illegal aliens," one questioner insisted to Rep. Allen Boyd, D-Florida, in a town hall in August.

In a new report based on its surveys of households, the bureau said Thursday that 46.3 million did not have health insurance coverage last year. That number includes 9,511,000 who are not U.S. citizens, or about one in five of the uninsured.

A spokesman for the Census Bureau says it cannot break down how many of those are illegal immigrants versus legal residents of the United States, since its information is based on asking respondents whether or not they are U.S. citizens. But it does not ask whether or not non-citizens are here legally.


Filed under: Health care • President Obama
soundoff (64 Responses)
  1. Mike, Syracuse, NY

    It doesn't matter if it includes illegals or not. Obama plans to give them all amnesty, so they will become 'legal', hence will be covered. it's all semantics on Obama's part. His plan is to build a permanent majority of 'have nots' who get more than they give to the US. He'll fund that on the shrinking population of those of us who actually work for what we get.

    September 10, 2009 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  2. No Free Lunch

    Don't you think that your bought and paid for bias in favor of your major advertiser, the insurance industry, is getting a little obvious?
    CNN has less than zero credibility on this issue because their coverage is so obviously influenced by their advertisers.

    September 10, 2009 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  3. Bush_Low_IQ

    Jail Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld for:

    1. Lying about WMDs of Iraq.
    2. Creating false intelligence report that Iraq has WMDs.
    3. 4300 US Troops Died.
    4. 25000 US Troops Permanently Disabled.
    5. $ 3 Trillion spent on Unjustified and Misleading war.
    6. No 9/11 terrorist from Iraq.
    7. Unregulated Banking – Mortgage Crises – 2.5 million lost their homes.
    8. No health care for 50 million.
    9. No rescue relief for Katrina.
    10. Bush misleading in 2008 "Our Economy is still strong".
    11. Bush Stating "Mission Accomplished". Since then 3500 US Troops have died.

    September 10, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  4. RNC = DNC = politics as usual

    Once again Umbama is playing fast and loose with his numbers.

    Anyone heard whether he is for or against single payer today?
    Or if he is for or against the public option today?

    It is hard to keep up with a slick politician.

    September 10, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  5. wild guess

    Seems none of theses numbers we keep hearing have been substantiated.

    September 10, 2009 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  6. Concerned

    Was he discussing health care? All I remember was "You lie."

    September 10, 2009 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  7. Pam

    I live in oregon, and here what happends when you are illegal aliens oh i hate that term, if you give birth the state gives benifits to the family because now you have one american citizen, the baby now makes the whole family eligibal for state benifis welfare, food stamps, medical, so say i a family of 5 comes to oregon then the mother gives birth her child is american born citizen and the whole family benifits, if the parents are illegal then why is the child american? should not the child be the legal of the same country of parents birth. we seem to be the only country that does this, unless of course one parent is already a citizen of this country, then that is different. how much could we save by doing this, that is one of the perks of comming here, yes they come for jobs, but also for the welfare benifits if giving birth

    September 10, 2009 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  8. Gary's Opinion

    Obama is a great speaker but a weak leader. That speech really doesn't change anything. We all want healthcare reform that focuses on malpractice reform and pre-existing conditions.

    NOBODY WANTS THE GOVERNMENT OPTION, OR SOCIALIZED MEDICINE OR GOVERNMENT PANELS, OR MORE TAXES OR MORE DEFICIT SPENDING.

    Nothing about this debate has changed.

    September 10, 2009 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  9. TCM

    You simply cannot trusty any numbers this administration puts out...especially when the missed the mark on recent deficient figures. Their claims are biased and false, just the same as Obama's entire claims...

    September 10, 2009 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  10. anonymous

    The question, I have for everyone, is who currently foots the bill for the health care of undocumented immigrants? The answer for the most part in my opinion... tax payers and people with health insurance... why this answer... Most undocumented immigrants (and others without a health care plan or that can cover the costs) go to hospital emergency rooms for their health care needs. Many of these individuals do not pay for these services, so who ends up paying for them... tax payers and those with plans that will cover those lost cost. Ideas from either side of the aisle on this?!?

    September 10, 2009 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  11. Dennis, Amarillo Texas

    CNN is an operating subsidary of the Democrat Party.

    September 10, 2009 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  12. Terry from Texas

    It is the outcome, not the process that matters. How we get health care is not as important as actually getting health care. Kids need vaccinations. If a kid doesn't get her vaccinations, I want something to change. If the private sector is so capable, then let the private sector give every kid a vaccination.

    If the private sector isn't handling the problem, then something needs to be changed. Let government do it, or the church, or the Red Cross, or the Lion's Club. What matters is that the kid gets her vaccinations.

    To Conservatives, the process is more important than the outcome. They want to know who gets the contract. Whether the kid gets a vaccination is not important to them. The means justify the ends. That is, if my buddies get the contract, who gives a crap if the program works or not?

    September 10, 2009 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  13. By the numbers it is still Propaganda

    Two words = one more lie.."Deficit Neutral"

    He speaks and expects the world to leap into existence.

    Let there be hope, Let there be affordable health care for all.

    In Obama we trust?

    September 10, 2009 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  14. wait a minute

    The public plan could be set up for donations as well. Americans send overseas lots of donations for the less fortunate. Why can't we help our own?

    September 10, 2009 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
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