Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Please don't lie, Mr. President

Barack Obama at the University of Nevada, Las ...Image via Wikipedia
It has come to my attention that President Obama has "misspoken" twice about a key number in the health care debate.  He has overstated how much more the United States spends on healthcare versus what other countries are paying. From what I understand (reading, no matter how you massage the numbers, the way he said it yesterday was  an overstatement.  He said:

Obama: So we want – if I’m a customer, if I’m a consumer and I know that I’m overpaying $6,000 for anything else, I would immediately want the best deal. But for some reason, in health care, we continue to put up with getting a bad deal. We’re paying $6,000 more than any other advanced country and we’re not healthier for it – $6,000 per person more, per year. That doesn’t make any sense.

According to when he initially threw out a $6,000 figure, that was based on the White House's estimates of what a family spends on healthcare per year.  I guess that number might be accurate.   That is, we spend $6,000 per family more than the next highest spending country.  I guess this number might be accurate. But, when he added the next to the last sentence $6,000 per person more, per year, he messed up.  He's too smart to be doing this.  

First of all, I think he should be using per capita (per person) numbers, not per person numbers.  Secondly, instead of throwing out a raw dollar figure, how about telling us what percentage we spend more than the second country.  I calculated it based on's numbers which they got from the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development. I calculated that we spend 55% more per person based on their numbers.  Impressive enough without misstating the facts.   We actually spend $2,500 per person per year more than the next highest country.  Since we only spend $7,000 per person a year, I'm sure we're $6,000 higher than someone.  But, he said more than any other advanced country.  So, we have to compare to the next highest country.

I sent the following email through and

Yesterday President Obama misstated a fact about health care costs and this concerns me.  Apparently, it's not the first time it has happened.  I am a HUGE proponent of healthcare reform and since I'm spending so much time disputing all the lies being put out by the other side, calling my representatives and trying to get people on board, it concerns me deeply that the President is making this mistake. 

Please check this link to 

First of all, it's not right to even use a "family" number.  How about just using the per capita number? And, instead of citing a raw dollar amount that we spend more, it would put it in better context to use the percentage more we spend.  Assuming's numbers are right, the next highest nation spends $4,500 per person per year ($7,000 we spend less the $2,500 difference).  If we're spending $7,000 per year, we're spending 55% more than the second highest nation.  That number should get the point across and be a number no one can dispute.

I hope someone from the administration steps up and corrects this mistake.

Of course, I'm assuming is right and the President's numbers are wrong.  If I hear anything different from the White House, I'll post it here.

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LCW said...

Hi Brian:

I'm not sure I'd call Obama's misstatements lies (I think we need to give politicians the benefit of the doubt when we aren't sure). But you are right that the more important figure is the PERCENTAGE we are overpaying for health care. You are right that we are paying about double per capita than our European friends with no better health care results. I haven't heard that fact discussed in the MSM, just on the Internet.

Brian said...

Yeah, I wouldn't call them "lies" either. That's why I used the word "misspoke". But, the word lie made for a catchier headline.

Obama's enemies will call his misstatements lies. He's done it a couple of times on the healthcare issue. When you're in that position, you have to choose your words carefully because they get picked apart and people just love to say you are lying. My point to the President is don't exaggerate, don't overstate and make sure you have your facts exactly correct. We know the other side is lying, big time. But, if we get caught making statements that aren't 100% true, we give them the opportunity to call their lies misstatements or to just say "Well, he's lying, too."

I am a huge fan of President Obama. I want to see him succeed for the sake of all of us.