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Inspecting Obama's health care claims

President Barack Obama speaks on health insurance reform at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building of the White House in Washington, D.C.


CORRECTION: The original version of this story incorrectly described the Lewin Group. It is a health consulting firm owned by UnitedHealth Group, the health insurer.


TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: In his speech last night, the president laid out his plan for health-care reform in public for the first time. He said the overhaul would cost $900 billion over the next 10 years. And that millions of uninsured people would get coverage. He made some other bold claims, too. And this being the day after the big reveal, you know where this one's going to go. We asked Tamara Keith to check out a few of those claims.


TAMARA KEITH: President Obama pledged in no uncertain terms that his plan will cover the costs.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I will not sign it if it adds one dime to the deficit now or in the future. Period.

None of the president's number crunchers were available, but the analysts I called weren't so sure about the deficit claim.

John Heath is with the Lewin Group, a health consulting firm owned by UnitedHealth Group. He just analyzed the House health-care bill. It's a lot like what the president wants.

JOHN SHIELDS: Their bill is pretty much fully paid for in the first 10 years.

But . . .

SHIELDS: The following decade, we would increase the deficit by about a trillion dollars for the program.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: We've estimated that most of this plan can be paid for by finding savings within the existing health-care system, a system that is currently full of waste and abuse.

Cato Institute fellow Michael Tanner says waste and abuse can be pretty slippery.

MICHAEL TANNER: Yeah, we've been trying to find waste, fraud and abuse since, oh, Ronald Reagan I think came up with that phrase. Yet somehow it's still there.

The president also said his plan would tame health-care inflation.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: And if we are able to slow the growth of health-care costs by just one-tenth of one percent each year. One-tenth of one percent, it will actually reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over the long term.

I headed straight to a health economist to tackle that one.

STEPHEN PARENTE: I've actually got a spreadsheet open right now.

That's Stephen Parente, from the University of Minnesota.

PARENTE: So once you actually apply the math to, say, one tenth of essentially a percentage point of that change that you're talking about over a 20 to 30 year period of time, you can actually net out $4 trillion.

Translation? The president's numbers check out, if you wait 20 or 30 years.

In Washington, I'm Tamara Keith for Marketplace.

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I was horrified and so very disappointed to hear the Lewin group identified as a "non-partisan (!!!) health consulting firm." Surely, NPR is aware of the ties between this organization and United Health Care, a major player in the health insurance industry. I look to NPR for balanced reporting. Using sources such as this one tips the scales in one direction and makes one question the motives of the station in doing this story.

Ha ha, did the Onion buy Marketplace? Because I could had swear I heard Tamara Keith refer the Lewin Group as a non-partisan group.
By the way, Mr. Judson, it is hard to believe that you would "edit" out such an important fact of Lewin Group as a mouth piece for the insurance companies simply for the sake of length. That's either journalistic incompetency or lack of integrity.
Or maybe the chimps have taken over the fact check department at your show...

I too was appalled to hear the Lewin Group described simply as non-partisan. It was incredibly misleading to omit the fact that they are owned and funded by UHC. I was even more appalled to hear the Lewin Group being cited for fact checking in this report.

Wait a minute. "Non-partisan" has four syllables. "Industry-backed" also has four syllables. How could this be edited for length? If you had edited out the former phrase, I wouldn't be squawking now.
Now have I lost trust in Ms. Keith and in her editor and in her managing editor.
Goodbye Marketplace.
And goodbye, the remains of NPR.

@George Judson: The "edited for length" explanation does not explain why the actively misleading "non-partisan" description made it into the show. As a long-time listener, color me disappointed.

@ GEORGE JUDSON: I hear your explanation -which doesn't really do anything to clear your name -although I suppose it clears the name of Ms Keith, I DON'T hear an apology, but the correction is appreciated.

George Judson writes: "I'm the managing editor of Marketplace. This story incorrectly described the Lewin Group. The health consulting firm is owned by UnitedHealth Group. That information was deleted from the script in editing it to the assigned length."

Please George, do not insult our intelligence. As you know, NPR listeners and members are informed citizens and do not rely on one source for their news. To mislead your listeners by ommitting such an important fact and then to attempt to excuse that ommission by stating that the piece had to be edited for time is disingenuous.

@George Judson

OK. So what are you going to do about it? I'd like to know, but I sure don't want to listen to your show anymore.

The Lewin Group is wholly owned by UnitedHealth Group, one of the nation's largest insurers.

More specifically, the Lewin Group is part of Ingenix, a UnitedHealth subsidiary that was accused by the New York attorney general and the American Medical Association, a physician's group, of helping insurers shift medical expenses to consumers by distributing skewed data. This is known as stealing from the people who support them and keep them in business, from their own members!

George Judson says: "I'm the managing editor of Marketplace. This story incorrectly described the Lewin Group. The health consulting firm is owned by UnitedHealth Group. That information was deleted from the script in editing it to the assigned length." Please tell me George, how is that your description of the Lewin Group as "a non-partisan health consulting firm" takes any less space than saying "owned by UnitedHealth Group"? And please, don't assume that your listeners are idiots, because we aren't, and we won't continue to be listeners or supporters if you continue to less than forthright with us. Good day sir.

I'm the managing editor of Marketplace. This story incorrectly described the Lewin Group. The health consulting firm is owned by UnitedHealth Group. That information was deleted from the script in editing it to the assigned length.

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