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. Karl in Charleston,SC

    "Figure's lie and liars figure."

    September 10, 2009 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  2. Deuce

    I keep saying my Psychics are running wick. Numbers??

    That says a lot. I am at the moment, (on and off) watching the
    DVD "Numbers". About a Virus outbreak. How will you deal with one, with an inferior health system??

    September 10, 2009 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  3. Fred the Moderate

    The numbers will continue to rise as people hear the truth rather then the lies flowing from the GOP and it's talk show / news cast buddies. I for one am glad Wilson showed the world how ignorant they can be when they don't have a chance! No new ideas but to be as stupid as possible as though that would sway an intellegent person to their cause. The 28% GOP loyal will be the 28% still loyal even after they see people like Wilson. We need to leave these people in their stonage lives and keep marching forward.

    Progress is always difficult but necessary

    September 10, 2009 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  4. proud conservative

    Thursday, September 10, 2009 Email to a Friend AdvertisementViews of the health care plan proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats remain largely unchanged since late July. A Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey conducted Tuesday and Wednesday nights finds that 44% favor the plan while 53% are opposed. These numbers are little different than those in late August.

    However, the overwhelmingly majority of interviews for the new survey were conducted before the president’s speech to Congress Wednesday night. Rasmussen Reports will be tracking support for the proposals on a daily basis over the next several days to measure what impact the speech has on public opinion.

    Another measure of the speech impact will be found in the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll.

    NICE TRY CNN, YOU ARE ALMOST AS GOOD AT TELLING LIES AS BO!!!!!!

    September 10, 2009 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  5. Independent Voter

    At best this healthcare program is a very controversial issue with many pitfalls and a burgeoning economic deficit. It would be great if it did indeed work out as Obama says it can.

    September 10, 2009 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  6. jmolone

    why dont I see anything about the ACORN issues on your website?

    September 10, 2009 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  7. N

    Why is it that if you do not agree with him, you have bogus ideas?

    The far left is growing sicker every day. What next.

    September 10, 2009 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  8. Some republican guy

    The census is bunk. It's only purpose is so that the evil obamabots can find you when it's your turn to face the death panel. I urge all republicans to boycott the census. Have a nice day!

    September 10, 2009 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  9. Sgt. USMC

    I thought the debate was about health care and not illegal residents. Are we trying to find something else complain about? 30,000,000 has enough zeroes in it to cause concern over health care. Not only that but isn't the fact that health care is so expensive enough to get things done. Come on people, let's solve the biggest problem we have before we tackle immigration.

    September 10, 2009 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  10. Chuck, Tennessee

    I was disappointed that the President and other Dems insist that a public option must be part of health care reform. That tells me they are not willing to accept any conservative ideas. The policy Obama laid out BEFORE he talked of the public option would do much to solve the insurance problem. I was also disappointed that Obama did not talk more about malpractice reform. I don't think he has any intention to support tort reform.

    September 10, 2009 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  11. Post always rejected by CNN

    What difference does it make if as sites like drudge say the poll numbers reflect democrats. After all Obama is telling the DEMOCRATS what is in his bill so they will pressure the crappy BLUE DOGS they better vote for it. Republicans wouldn't vote for any bill any solitary health care bill so who cares what they think...again and again WE WON SO JUST GET OVER IT REPUBLICANS.

    September 10, 2009 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  12. Michael

    Go Obama!

    A very determined man. I like that. Democrats aways seem to cave-in whenever the right wing starts to scream, but not this guy. Get it done. Pass healthcare reform with a public option. Democrats have no excuse, they have majorities in both houses of Congress and the Presidency. If conservative Democrats fear losing their seats, then so be it, they should sacrifice for a higher calling just like Republicans are willing to sacrifice their lot for their conservative callings.

    I have health insurance, it is too expensive and I end up paying for most things out of my pocket because my deductibles are so high in order for me to be able to afford the premiums.

    Who are, by the way, all these people who are so happy with their health insurance? I do not know any of them.

    September 10, 2009 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  13. Fair is Fair

    Did you notice how Obama proposed all of the various ways the uninsured could get coverage?

    Then he ends it with "and for those who still fall through the cracks, there's the "public option", which should only have about 5% of Americans enrolled".

    Okay... so using his numbers... 30 million uninsured is 10% of the population. If the public option is going to have 5% of the population, or 15 million, what he is really saying is that half of the uninsured will be in the public option.

    What an incredible spin doctor this guy is.

    September 10, 2009 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  14. RealityKing

    CNN's Truth Squad Strikes Out

    Strike one for calling the use of illegal alien numbers misleading..

    Strike two for calling the use of currently elgiable for gov insurance misleading.

    Strike three for calling the use of those who make more than 70,000 but don't want to pay for insurance misleading.

    September 10, 2009 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  15. Shrinking universe

    16 million are screwed.

    September 10, 2009 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  16. Deuce

    What do two democrats talk about? I hear it every ten minutes on CNN..

    September 10, 2009 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  17. Canadian Boy

    I would so like to see the US provide health care to all its citizens.

    You always pride yourselves in looking out for the other guy. If you really mean what you say, you'll look out for your fellow Americans.

    Good for USA.

    It might no be perfect, but its a whole lot closer than what you have now.

    September 10, 2009 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  18. vic nashville , Tn

    Health care is broken we know insurance companies are making lot of money

    We are ready to buy health insurance it should be under our budget

    If Government is offering we will buy what is wrong with that

    We have families we don’t have time to go to town hall meetings and scram

    We will raise our voice on Election Day

    September 10, 2009 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  19. susie

    I remember when the Democrats booed Bush and Reid called Bush a liar. I guess the Democrats have a short memory.

    September 10, 2009 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  20. Tom in Delaware

    More 3 card monty.

    September 10, 2009 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  21. republicans destroyed America

    Health Care costs continue to rise and yet republicans still oppose reform because they could care less about average Americans. How sad for America. Quit watching Faux News people and try another station like MSNBC or even CNN sometimes, you'd be surprised at the truth.

    September 10, 2009 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  22. Brian

    I see I hit a chord...

    September 10, 2009 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  23. bush VICTIM!

    Who in their right mine would oppose health care reform? Think people for yourself, republicans lied to us about so many things for 8 years and yet you still believe their lies??

    September 10, 2009 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  24. LacrosseMom

    Having healthcare for ALL Americans IS the moral thing to do.

    We, Americans, are fair people, we believe in caring for those who are in need. Also, many of us, know first hand what it is like to be denied coverage after paying into healthcare for years; or having a member of our families or a friend denied healthcare because of a preexisting condition.

    We are ALL in danger of losing our healthcare, all it takes is to be unemployed or laid-off.

    We need healthcare on a national level NOW!

    THANK YOU AMERICA!

    September 10, 2009 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  25. Sam Sixpack

    I'm so glad you choose to count people. Now, why won't you tell us why the dollars don't add up?

    September 10, 2009 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
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