Fact-Checking Obama’s Health-Care Speech: Many False Claims

In his health-care speech last night, President Obama promised the world, but didn’t explain how he would pay for it. It was all sizzle, no substance. Even media that often cheerlead for Obama found his claims hard to swallow.

Obama claimed that his proposals won’t add “one dime to the deficit now or in the future.” But as the Associated Press noted, his proposals “would drive up the deficit by billions of dollars.” The Washington Post, which endorsed Obama and hasn’t endorsed a Republican for President since 1952, noted that under the House version of Obamacare, “the expanded coverage would add more than $1 trillion to the deficit.”

Obama claims that “Nothing in this plan will require you or your employer to change the coverage or the doctor you have.” But that’s not true of the House and Senate versions of Obama’s plan. The Associated Press noted that “the Congressional Budget Office analyzed the health care bill written by House Democrats and said that by 2016 some 3 million people who now have employer-based care would lose it because their employers would decide to stop offering it.”

Obama also claims to not want to cut Medicare benefits. However, the Associate Press says that “Obama and congressional Democrats want to pay for their health care plans in part by reducing Medicare payments to providers by more than $500 billion over 10 years. The cuts would largely hit hospitals and Medicare Advantage, the part of the Medicare program operated through private insurance companies. . . . many experts believe some seniors almost certainly would see reduced benefits from the cuts. That’s particularly true for the 25 percent of Medicare users covered through Medicare Advantage.”

Obama also claims that he can keep the cost of his health care plan down to a mere $900 billion, in part by “requiring insurance companies to cover preventive care,” which he claims “saves money.” The Associated Press rejects this claim: “Studies have shown that much preventive care — particularly tests like the ones Obama mentions — actually costs money instead of saving it. That’s because detecting acute diseases . . . in their early stages involves testing many people who would never end up developing the disease. The costs of a large number of tests, even if they’re relatively cheap, will outweigh the costs of caring for the minority of people who would have ended up getting sick without the testing. The Congressional Budget Office wrote in August: ‘The evidence suggests that for most preventive services, expanded utilization leads to higher, not lower, medical spending overall.'”

The Heritage Foundation debunked 10 false claims made by Obama in his speech.

Reason Magazine, most of whose writers preferred Obama over McCain in 2008, has a commentary entitled “Obama’s Lies Matter, Too“:

“The lies last night began in Obama’s opening paragraph. ‘When I spoke here last winter,’ he began, ‘credit was frozen. And our financial system was on the verge of collapse.’ In fact, Obama spoke on Feb. 24, at least six weeks after credit markets began to thaw . . .

“It’s never encouraging when a politician who desperately needs to convince skeptical Americans of his fiscal sobriety starts off by slurring his words. As you might then infer, Obama was just warming up. ‘Insurance companies,’ the president announced, ‘will be required to cover, with no extra charge, routine checkups and preventive care, like mammograms and colonoscopies,’ in part because such prevention ‘saves money.’ Looks like someone forgot to tell the Congressional Budget Office, or other non-White House sources that have analyzed the cost-benefit of prevention.

“Again and again last night, the president’s numbers didn’t add up. ‘There may be those—particularly the young and healthy—who still want to take the risk and go without coverage,’ he warned, in a passage defending compulsory insurance. ‘The problem is, such irresponsible behavior costs all the rest of us money. If there are affordable options and people still don’t sign up for health insurance, it means we pay for those people’s expensive emergency room visits.’ No, it means that, on balance, the healthy young don’t pay for the unhealthy old. The whole point of forcing vigorous youth to buy insurance is using their cash and good actuarials to bring down the costs of covering the less fortunate.

“Such fudges reveal a politician who, for whatever reason, feels like he can’t be honest about the real-world costs of expanding health care. “Add it all up, and the plan I’m proposing will cost around $900 billion over ten years,” he said, trying hard to sound like those numbers weren’t pulled out of Joe Biden’s pants, and won’t be dwarfed by actual costs within a year or two.  ‘We’ve estimated that most of this plan can be paid for by finding savings within the existing health care system–a system that is currently full of waste and abuse,’  he said, making him at least the eighth consecutive president to vaguely promise cutting Medicare ‘waste’ (a promise, it should be added, that could theoretically be fulfilled without drastically overhauling the health care system). Any government-run ‘public option,’ he claimed, somehow “won’t be” subsidized by taxpayers, but instead would ‘be self-sufficient and rely on the premiums it collects.’

And in a critical, tic-riddled passage that many of even his most ardent supporters probably don’t believe, Obama said: ‘Here’s what you need to know. First, I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits–either now or in the future. Period.’ In case you couldn’t quite read his lips, the president repeated the line for emphasis. Then: ‘And to prove that I’m serious, there will be a provision in this plan that requires us to come forward with more spending cuts if the savings we promised don’t materialize.’

If that ‘one dime’ formulation sounds familiar, that’s because Obama made—then almost immediately broke—the same promise regarding taxes on Americans earning less than $250,000 a year. Surely the no-new-deficits pledge is headed for the campaign dustbin faster even then that ‘net spending cut‘ we’ll never see.”

Martin Feldstein, an economic advisor to Obama, criticized “ObamaCare’s Crippling Deficits” in Monday’s Wall Street Journal, noting that “the higher taxes, debt payments and interest rates needed to pay for health reform mean lower living standards.”

Feldstein earlier called into question Obama’s claims about how ObamaCare will supposedly let you keep your health coverage while cutting costs. “ObamaCare is all about rationing,” says Feldstein. Feldstein also noted that Obama’s health-care plan would harm people with insurance, and massively raise taxes.

Feldstein, a Harvard professor, warns that “For the 85 percent of Americans who already have health insurance, the Obama health plan is bad news. It means higher taxes, less health care and no protection if they lose their current insurance because of unemployment or early retirement.” Obama’s plan would “cost more than $1 trillion,” and raise the top federal “income-tax rate from 35 percent today to more than 45 percent,” he notes.

Fact-checkers previously concluded that Obama is lying about health-care. A CNN Money commentary notes that ObamaCare will take away 5 freedoms.

Obama claimed his proposals would not give coverage to illegal aliens. While the New York Times claims that this is technically true, others, like the Congressional Research Service, Slate’s Mickey Kaus (a Democrat), and the Washington Examiner, have said that it likely would give coverage to illegal aliens.

While illegal aliens are exempt from Obama’s individual mandate — which would impose penalties on American citizens who do not obtain health insurance coverage — and they are theoretically not entitled to government-subsidized coverage under the House version of ObamaCare, in practice, there would little to stop them from obtaining such coverage, since Democrats blocked any effective enforcement mechanism for excluding illegal aliens, by voting down the safeguards advocated by Congressman Dean Heller (R-Nevada).

Yet, as the New York Times concedes, “illegal immigrants would seem to be exempt from the proposed requirement that all but the lowest-income Americans obtain health insurance. So they would not be forced to buy insurance.”

Thus, while illegal immigrants are exempt from ObamaCare’s fines and penalties, there is nothing to stop them from joining up if they want to.

This could lead to the worst of both worlds: young, healthy illegal aliens avoiding buying health insurance, while older, sickly illegal aliens get government-sponsored health insurance, so that the government winds up insuring only the most expensive and costly illegals, at taxpayer expense.

ObamaCare has other dubious provisions, like its racial preferences and set-asides, which earlier drew criticism from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.