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. G Reed

    I think the whole Idea of government health care is rediculous,we dont need more gov in our lives,we need less!!!!!!!! Thank You.

    September 10, 2009 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  2. aproudmemberoftheunpatrioticmob

    In other words, he decided to throw out a new number with no expanation in order to sell the program. That certainly help his veracity in my mind. He is either lying and/or he does not have a clue.

    September 10, 2009 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  3. Chris from NC

    Forget the statistics!!! In other words, we're being screwed!!! The Prez laid out our choices: sit back and take it or do something about it.

    September 10, 2009 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  4. Mark,B'ham,Al.

    The Congress may not have been the appropriate place to call the President on his lie, but Rep. Wilson is expressing the skeptic attitude of a majority of Americans. After pro-illegal immigrant groups likie La-RAZA said the House Bills were good and the democrats voted down the amendment that would require proof of citizenship or being a legal immigrant to qualify for a goverment run health care program or subsidy whowould be foolish enough to belive that lawyers or Acotn will find a way for thsoe not entitled to the program to get in it anyway. Illegal immigrants get FHA loans, small business loans, college tuition, and other social/welfare programs they are not entitled too. And for those of you who watched the Messiah he still did not give an explanation on how to payfor it. If the goverment can stop the waste, let them prove it first before using the phantom savings. We have tried for over 40 years to cut the waste and fraud by the special interest.

    September 10, 2009 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  5. Jon in CA

    Gee – why isn't CNN focusing on Obama's REAL lie:

    "This program will not add to our deficit!"

    Really?? $900 Billion in NEW costs.... but you all believe Obama is going to find enough Government Waste to offset the cost???

    REALLY???

    How much "savings" have Obama and Democrats done SO FAR??

    Z-E-R-O! Instead they have continued adding to the debt/deficit.

    WHY did Obama just ask for the debt ceiling to be raised in Congress????? HELLOOOOOOOOO

    September 10, 2009 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  6. Dont blame me

    Isn't it interesting the the democrats keep modifing the numbers??

    They said that the number of unishured in this country was 47 million, 53 million, and now it is 30 million. Either we are doing better or Obama is playing a numbers game.

    If you take out the illegal immagrants and people that could actually afford paying for their insurance, then the REAL number is closer to 12 million.

    That $900 billion that Obama talks about needing to cover health care comes to over $75,000 per uninsured person in the country. I guess that the balance is to pay for the 53 new government beauracracies that are going to be created.

    September 10, 2009 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  7. Jon Krieger

    It's clear to me that Obama will cook the numbers,stretch the truth and do any amount of lying to get this thing passed!I heard him say that it wouldn't cover illegal aliens and then a second later he reversed himself saying it would cover CHILDREN of illegal aliens!This idiot talks out of both sides of his mouth and you can't believe what comes out of either side!

    September 10, 2009 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  8. ggb

    Please tell me what Obama expects to do about the illegals? As I see it, either way we will pay for their health care or is what he omitted the tell all....his agenda to give illegals amnesty thus health care. In the hour he spoke, only half truths were told as witnessed by all the papers held in the air or even a congressman, part of those who had accress to his plan, calling him a liar. It was quite obvious to anyone who has common sense that the whole story could not and was deliberately be told. How else would he sell his bill?

    September 10, 2009 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  9. You're A Liar!

    Well no kidding his poll numbers jumped in your poll...!!!!!! You interviewed 45% of Democrats and only 14% of Republicans!!!!!

    Is Hugo Chavez working with you guys?????

    September 10, 2009 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  10. Sam Sixpack

    Now that ANY position has been articulated, we can get to the business of flushing out the truth.

    So far, we can be assured Americans will be required to contribute all they can "afford" to the lifestyles of fat, greedy, rich insurance executives.

    September 10, 2009 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  11. Change in America

    President Obama did great letting us know what his plan was for health care reform...Wilson need to be lock up for calling President a lier.

    I felt like the Republicans was there to make President Obama look bad.

    Vote republicans out the office

    September 10, 2009 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  12. ketrout

    He needs to keep the "PUBLIC OPTION" IN THE BILL!

    Anything else will not make the insurance companies lower their costs or to provide better coverage. A Trigger in the bill will NEVER HAPPEN!

    September 10, 2009 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  13. Di

    Wake up America! Dem's say illegal immigrant are not covered in this Bill. We taxpayers will still pay for their medical treatment. NO ER will turn them away IT IS ILLEGAL and the Hospital would be SUED !!! Obama won the election. We the people VOTED FOR CHANGE! We did not understand he meant ALL OF OUR CHANGE!

    September 10, 2009 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  14. Chris - Seattle

    Who cares about the darn numbers, just get the flippin coverage passed and we can work out the finite details later. I swear these flippin entitled Americans need to just shut the heck up and get what's taken 60 years to make happen and I'm including the public option. The insurance companies aren't paying me a dime so I could give a rats butt about who's pockets they're in and why. I think everyone that suggest dropping the public option is in some way connected to the insurance industries profits, screw them!!!

    September 10, 2009 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  15. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    I hope that something gets done. If the Republicans can't deal with the idea that there needs to be an option for those that can't get health insurance from elsewhere, then government has to be the last place so that everyone doesn't use the emergancy room as their first and only stop.

    September 10, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  16. Robert

    Geez, the republican's must be lying. After all Obama said it was 30 million people who are not covered by insurance, not 47 million people. Just like he said he was not for a single payer system, not that he was for a single payer system. I get so confused when the calendar is thrown into these conversations. Why can't I simply go by the last thing Obama said, rather than trying to figure out what he truly believes by deciphering all of his contradictory statements on an issue?

    I don't mean to lie, I just get confused about the timing of what he said. Hey, any kool-aid left, I'm thirsty.

    September 10, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  17. stephanie zambrano

    I'm Canadian, i dont understand why there's such debate over the healthcare situation in US. I mean here we all have the basic healthcare that should be provided by the government. Is it really just about the money? That is tragic, for such a wealthy country to be caught up in the money cycle. I am glad that Mr. Obama is addressing this issue, because its about time the US steps up on reforming many issues that most governments around the world have figured out.

    September 10, 2009 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  18. center left

    The Republicans should be ashame the way they acted during President Obama speech on health insurance reform. How can anyone let these idiot lead this country again.

    September 10, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  19. alex

    GOD is great, and is with you obama, health care reform is going to get passed by the will of GOD.

    September 10, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  20. Ronnie

    I'm sure the people that CNN polled were Democratics, so that does not tell the WHOLE STORY as usual. Polls need to be 50%liberals/Dems and 50% Republicans/Independents and then you will get more of an accurate count. BE FAIR CNN.... DON'T FUDGE ON FIGURES.... We Americans are smarter than you think. We are not STUPID IDIOTS like you think.

    September 10, 2009 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  21. Truth Dectective

    Yes ACORN on the hot seat again. One by one their falling.

    September 10, 2009 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  22. Joylynn

    This Obama Health Care Plan is going to cost us taxpayers TRILLIONS of dollars and it is going to have to come from US. I do not want the government telling me who and when I can get medical care. I want to MAKE SURE THAT I WILL BE ABLE TO KEEP MY HEALTH CARE PLAN THAT I HAVE NOW. I don't want any surprises after 2 or 3 years and the governement says "OOPS" you can't have that any longer and then it's too late to TURN BACK THE CLOCK on this OUTRAGEOUS EXPENSIVE BILL. I am against this healthcare plan that the Dems want to pass. Please let's take time and get it right, not SHOVE it down our throats, PLEASE.

    September 10, 2009 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  23. Mike in MN

    So Obama is now using a number that does not include illegals.
    But that does not make it law.
    Once the bill is ready to come to a vote, it must contain a provison that anyone getting a subsidy from the government to purchase a plan must prove through e-verify that they are not an illegal. Without this provision it is just talk.

    September 10, 2009 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  24. Lisa, Saugus MA

    If the POTUS would keep his promise of expanded job growth then we would see less people without healthcare coverage.

    Where are the jobs? That is what everything boils down to in a nutshell. Why can't many keep their health coverage...no job! Why can't those forced to work part time have coverage for their health? Not offered to most part timers.

    Americans need good paying jobs that offer health care coverage.

    September 10, 2009 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  25. donttreadonme

    If the public option will only cover 5% then why are the libs pushing so hard??? This is the first step towards single payer!

    Moderate dems are our only hope to stop this Government over step! Repubs are powerless to stop this!

    The Government cannot properly regulate if they have a stake in it! It is a conflict of interest. We will compete with you but we control the rules? What country is this.... China?

    September 10, 2009 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
1 2 3