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.


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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As a long time listener and subscriber to KPCC I was appalled to hear Tamara Keith refer to John Shields as being "with the Lewin Group, a non-partisan health consulting firm." It is a well known documented fact that The Lewin Group is owned by United Healthcare, one of the largest health insurance companies in America. Calling The Lewin Group non-partisan is like calling Sean Hannity a Liberal commentator and defender of Obama's health reform. Please correct this misleading reference in your story.

As a long-time NPR listener, I too felt compelled to write because I am disappointed by your description of the Lewin Group as "a non-partisan health consulting firm." The Lewin Group is a subsidiary of United Health Group, an insurance company. If you are going to quote the Lewin Group at all, responsible journalism dictates that you disclose their ownership. Better yet, find a truly non-partisan group to comment. I hope that you will consider doing a corrective statement today.

with all respect, Dr. Parente, there have been many a business plan built up on a questionable spreadsheet with a couple of linear regressions thrown in. How about validating your model?

It was appalling that your reporter Tamara Keith used two biased sources for her report and even more appalling that Marketplace exercised no editorial control over this very dishonest reporting. And you wonder why journalism is in trouble?

You lost me at Lewin Group. Next time, find a better, actually non-partisan sources. I know they're out there.

Using the Cato Institute and the Lewin group to fact check a health care bill is a decided give-away to the right. Neither is nonpartisan; you should not have billed the Lewin Group as such.

I thought this story was supposed to be ironic.

I thought it was just me who noticed this preposterous breach of journalistic 'background'! While I have never been under the impression that "Marketplace" was anything but right of center, this particular story, using The Lewin Group as a legitimate, non-partisan source for analyzing the Obama Healthcare Reform Bill, was just offensive. How stupid does Ms.Keith think her audience is?

Lewin Group is not a non-partisan organization. I use to listen to NPR's Marketplace but I will no longer be listening to your information as it is tainted. Lewin Group is fronted by the United Healthcare Group who do not operate in the interests of people in America. Goodbye NPR.

The Lewin Group is "nonpartisan"? Are you kidding? They are the Republicans favorite fake experts, being wholly funded by United Health Care. While the Cato Institute is hardly objective, at least your average listener knows where they're coming from. But to help legitimize the Lewin Group is a disgrace.


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