How many uninsured? 47 million? 46 million? 30 million? 15 million?

Barack Obama was way off in the beginning when he bought the common wisdom and said that 47 million Americans were without health insurance. As Sally Pipes has shown, only about 8 million of those actually want health insurance and can’t get it. The others either aren’t American citizens, are eligible for government programs and haven’t used them, simply don’t want to buy health insurance or were counted as being without insurance because they changed jobs and may have gone a day without coverage.

But the Ø has revised his numbers downward over the past year, going from 47 million last July to “nearly” 46 million in August, to 30 million in September and, finally, to 15 million in his now-infamous 17-minute answer to a question asked by a Celgard employee in Charlotte, N.C.

At a July 22, 2009, press conference:

This is not just about the 47 million Americans who don’t have any health insurance at all.

In a New York Times op-ed that ran on Aug. 15, 2009:

I don’t have to explain to the nearly 46 million Americans who don’t have health insurance how important this is.

In a joint address to Congress on Sept. 9, 2009:

There are now more than 30 million American citizens who cannot get coverage.

At the Celgard facility on April 2, 2010:

Here’s the bottom line. Number one is that we are the only — we have been, up until last week, the only advanced country that allows 15 million of its citizens to not have any health insurance.

That “last week” would refer to the passage and signing of the health care bill.

Two notes:

1. The 9/9/09 number of 30 million “who cannot get” coverage could plausibly exclude those who choose not to have any and/or the people counted in the census as not having any.

2. Not really sure in the 4/2/10 quote how the “allows” should be understood. Is that “We let this happen and we shouldn’t have” or, taking the individual mandate into view, “We let these people get away without having health insurance”?

I was interested in seeing the Ø’s most recent assessment of the uninsured mainly because it meant that he is admitting that he is reworking one sixth of the American economy for the benefit of 15 million people. Should the needs of those 15 million be addressed? Absolutely, but in a free-market way. It’s the GOP’s and George W. Bush’s fault that the situation wasn’t addressed when Republicans had control of Congress and the White House.

But how did all of those big numbers change in the Ø’s eyes? Why wasn’t he talking about 15 million last July? Didn’t sound as desperate as 47 million or 30 million? Not as good of a sound bite?


2 thoughts on “How many uninsured? 47 million? 46 million? 30 million? 15 million?

  1. Do you believe in unicorns or bunnies? Free Markets? Oh, you mean oligopolies. When a market is dominated by a select few players who easily collude to keep prices high, choices low, payouts at a minimum and new competitors from entering. Vast swaths of the US and other global economies bear as much resemblance to “free markets” as unicorns do to actual animals. Have fun in fantasyland.

  2. In that case, those “vast swaths” need to be fixed, but putting health care in the hands of the government is not the way to do it. Talk about a monopoly. We already have government monopoly in mail delivery (no financial problems there), schools (no problems there) and “vast swaths” of the health care sector (no problems with Medicare and Medicaid). What in the world was I thinking? The things that government is best at is building roads, collecting taxes and providing for the national defense. The Zero did well on the first by overspending on the stimulus, is ramping up activity on the second and is working hard to destroy the third.

    Who exactly is the one who believes in unicorns and bunnies? (Actually, yes, I do believe in bunnies. I think that’s what children call baby rabbits.)

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