By Judy Reed
Did Obama lie?
For many of the people who watched President Barack Obama’s speech last week on the health insurance proposal making its way through Congress, one thing will stand out—Rep. Joe Wilson accused him of lying. It was a Kanye West kind of moment. The President had just finished saying that illegal immigrants would not be covered under the plan, when Wilson yelled out, “You lie!” Whether you agree with the president or the protestor, it was a disrespectful way to refute what the man who holds the highest office in the land was saying. (He later apologized.) And now that the furor has been overshadowed by Kanye West’s latest antics (taking the microphone away from Taylor Swift during her victory speech), the question remains—did Obama lie? We went to factcheck.org to find out, and discovered some interesting points.
Obama was correct when he said his plan wouldn’t insure illegal immigrants; the House bill expressly forbids giving subsidies to those who are in the country illegally. Conservative critics complain that the bill lacks an enforcement mechanism, but that hardly makes the president a liar.
The president said, “No federal dollars will be used to fund abortions.” But the House bill would permit a “public option” to cover all abortions, and would also permit federal subsidies to be used to purchase private insurance that covers all abortions, a point that raises objections from anti-abortion groups. That’s true despite a technical ban on use of taxpayer dollars to pay for abortion coverage.
The president repeated his promise that his plan won’t add “one dime” to the federal deficit. But legislation offered so far would add hundreds of billions of dollars to the deficit over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
The president overstated the degree of concentration in the insurance industry. He said that in 34 states the “insurance market” is controlled by five or fewer companies, but that’s true only of insurance bought by small groups, not the entire “insurance market.”
Obama said his plan won’t “require you or your employer to change the coverage or the doctor you have.” It’s true that there’s no requirement, but experts say the legislation could induce employers to switch coverage for millions of workers.
Obama said that one man from Illinois lost his coverage in the middle of chemotherapy because his insurer found that he hadn’t reported gallstones that he didn’t even know about. They delayed his treatment, and he died because of it. The insurance company did treat him badly and did delay his treatment for stage IV non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a form of cancer, but it was resumed in April 2005. He died this past January, 2009. There’s no way to know whether he would have survived his cancer if the treatment had not been interrupted. According to a writer from the Chicago Tribune, White House speech writers said they got their info from Slate magazine, who reported the case “incorrectly.”
This is just a summary. For more in depth analysis, go to www.factcheck.org.
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