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.