In his Sept. 9 address to Congress on health care, President Obama assured the nation, "These are the facts. Nobody disputes them." The brazenness of the president's claim that nobody disputes his policy spin is over the top. Such a hardened position means that anybody raising objections against such a consensus is either a liar or an idiot.
Ironically, with all the outrage over South Carolina Republican Rep. Joe Wilson's yelling "You lie" during the president's speech, there has been precious little said about Mr. Obama constantly claiming that Republicans are lying. The president pointedly went after former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and her assertions about rationing when he fumed to Congress, "It is a lie, plain and simple." Despite all the theatrics, his statement is false. The Democratic bills before Congress do involve rationing.
In fact, we have a hard time even finding almost anything in the president's talk that is correct. Take his basic claims about the insurance industry. "In 34 states, 75 percent of the insurance market is controlled by five or fewer companies," Mr. Obama said. "In Alabama, almost 90 percent is controlled by just one company." As Fox News Channel demonstrated on Wednesday, the share of the largest five insurance companies in the 34 states is not 75 percent but merely 32 percent. For Alabama, the number is not almost 90 percent but 36 percent, which sounds a lot less threatening than what the president said.
During his talk, Mr. Obama claimed he wanted the government to provide health insurance because he says America needs competition from a nonprofit operation. Curiously, he never once mentioned that, in most states, the largest insurance company is actually a nonprofit, such as BlueCross BlueShield Association. The president repeatedly portrays the industry as in the grip of a few greedy for-profit insurance companies when that is simply not true. The mudslinging is politics at its worst. The sad reality is that there is no way he could sell his government plan unless he painted such a distorted picture.
Mr. Obama talked about "the extraordinary hardships that are placed on the uninsured," but he again ignored the evidence. No doubt, some of the uninsured face problems, but it is wrong to lump most uninsured in this category. Over the summer, Regulation magazine published an article describing a USA Today/ABC News/Kaiser Foundation survey that sheds light on this mischaracterized demographic group. That poll showed that out of the uninsured who responded to a question about satisfaction with care, 70 percent answered that they are either "very satisfied" or "satisfied" with the health care they receive. This is because being uninsured doesn't stop them from receiving care.
According to the president, "we aren't any healthier" on account of the amount of money we spend on health care. This notion is a diversion from the serious issues at hand. Americans do a lot of things that adversely affect their health. Health care can't stop people from eating too much, for example. But if someone gets heart disease or cancer, this is a pretty good place to live. For disease after disease, American survival rates after getting sick are the envy of the rest of the world. The five-year age-adjusted survival rate for breast cancer for women in the United States is 83 percent. In England, it is 67 percent. In Germany, it is 72 percent.
From top to bottom, Mr. Obama's claims about what's included in Democratic health care legislation - and the ostensible benefits of change - are misleading. He has assured over and over again that if you like your current insurance, "nothing in our plan requires you to change what you have." Well, nothing in the plan orders anyone to change their policy, but it is going to happen anyway as a major changes are forced on insurance providers.
Under the Democratic plans, insurance companies are mandated to provide unlimited benefits, reduce co-pays and total out-of-pocket expenses, provide "free" preventive care, change what is covered and eliminate restrictions on pre-existing conditions. The government also plans to help the insurance industry figure out exactly where it is wasting money, which is absurd on its face given that no one wastes money like government bureaucracies.
But one thing is for sure: All these new rules will change the insurance plans Americans currently have. There is no way to simultaneously let people keep existing insurance plans while upgrading them substantially without raising premiums.
Mr. Obama has said, "Under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions." Even the liberal Factcheck.org Web site noted that an amendment adopted in the House Energy and Commerce Committee "states that some abortions 'shall' be covered by the 'public option' plan" and "for other types of abortions ... [the amended bill] leaves it to the secretary of Health and Human Services to decide whether or not they will be covered."
There's also a big hitch to the president's statement that "buying insurance on your own costs you three times as much as the coverage you get from your employer." To buy into this claim, people have to think that employer costs for health coverage do not affect wages. But there are no bottomless resources that institutions use to cover salary and benefits. If employers have to pay workers more in terms of health care, they will pay less in terms of wages.
Mr. Wilson's ire was understandable given the president's claim that, "There are also those who claim that our reform effort will insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false." Even the Congressional Research Service's evaluation of HR 3200 - the main Democratic health care bill in the House - points out that some illegals are already eligible for some types of government-paid health care and expanding the programs will make more eligible. Many illegal immigrants already get government health care for which they are ineligible because enforcement is lax.
Mr. Obama's congressional lecture claimed that his health care program could be funded simply by eliminating "waste and fraud," that people would get a lot more benefits than they currently do for less money, that the uninsured will be covered, and that "the plan will not add to our deficit." What the president is advocating is impossible. Making up "facts" won't make Mr. Obama's promises come true.