Mona Charen

Let's stipulate that it was wrong of Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., to shout "You lie" during President Obama's health care speech. It was a violation of courtesy and etiquette. Wilson apologized -- which is more than the Democrats who booed President Bush's State of the Union address in 2005 ever did.

But I confess that watching at home, similar expostulations were heard. Some seemed to have burst, irrepressible, from my own lips.

There was, for starters, this misleading assertion: " ... If you are among the hundreds of millions of Americans who already have health insurance through your job, or Medicare, or Medicaid, or the VA, nothing in this plan will require you or your employer to change the coverage or the doctor you have." Ah, shades of Clintonesque lawyerly evasion. No, it won't "require" you to change, but if the tax treatment changes (and Obama proposes, among other things, to tax high-end plans) and the public option is available, employers may choose to change their offerings and employees will then no longer get to keep their current insurance.

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The president then adverted to "more than 30 million American citizens who cannot get coverage." As the Washington Examiner's Byron York notes, the 30 million figure represents a climb down from the president's oft-repeated claim (most recently in August) that there are "47 million uninsured in this country." (The president's track record on numbers is not inspiring. Remember his claim -- since debunked -- that medical expenses caused a bankruptcy every 30 seconds? Even ABC News called it "unsupportable.")

Perhaps by downgrading to 30 million, President Obama is attempting to exclude an estimated 9.3 million illegal aliens. But look closely at the rest of the uninsured. According to Census and HHS data, 10 million have incomes more than 300 percent of the poverty line, meaning they could afford coverage but for some reason choose to forego it. And speaking of foregoing, 5 million are single childless adults between the ages of 18 and 34. An estimated 6.4 million are "Medicaid undercount," meaning they receive Medicaid or SCHIP but tell census takers otherwise. Another 4.3 million are eligible for Medicaid or other government health programs but have failed to enroll. That leaves just 10.6 million U.S. citizens below 300 percent of poverty, not eligible for an existing government program, and not between 18 and 34.


Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
 
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