Article published Friday, August 07, 2009, at Fox News.

Obama's Misinformation Campaign On Health Care

By John R. Lott, Jr.

Over and over again President Obama has promised not to "mess with" private insurance for those who are happy with what they currently have. When challenged, he dismisses it as mere "scare tactics and fear-mongering."

In an address to the American Medical Association in June, he accused his opponents: "let me also address a illegitimate concern that's being put forward by those who are claiming that a public option is somehow a Trojan horse for a single-payer system. . . . So when you hear the naysayers claim that I'm trying to bring about government-run health care, know this: They're not telling the truth."

A new Fox News poll released last week shows that 84 percent of the insured rate their insurance as excellent or good. Another 13 percent rate their insurance as fair, and only 3 percent rate it as poor. With those numbers, it isn't surprising that Americans want to keep their private insurance policies.

But anyone who reads the Democratic health care plans circulating in Washington knows that private health insurance days are numbered. Whether it is the increased cost shifting from lowering reimbursement rates to hospitals and doctors by Medicare and Medicaid (and depending on the proposal also the new government insurance program) or the below cost pricing for the government insurance or the inability of private insurance to treat pre-existing conditions differently, any of these changes can kill private insurance.

So is Mr. Obama telling the truth about the people keeping private health insurance? Fortunately, some recently discovered campaign speeches may give a good idea what Mr. Obama is up to. During March of 2007, he addressed the Service Employees International Union health care forum: "I would hope that we can set up a system that allows those who can go through their employer to access a federal system or a state pool of some sort, but I don't think we're going to be able to eliminate employer coverage immediately. There's going to be potentially some transition process." It fits so closely the legislation being proposed that it is hard to think that is not the intent of the legislation.

And take his statement to the AFL-CIO in 2003: "I happen to be a proponent of a single payer universal health care plan. . . . that is what I would like to see."

Naturally, when his presidential ambitions became clear, he started to sound different and he toned down his left-wing message. Of course, if you don't believe the president, listen to his supporters in congress. Barney Frank was quite clear: "I think that if we get a good public option, it could lead to a single payer, and thatís the best way to reach single payer."

The White House has responded in force claiming that Obama's quotes were taken out of context. Linda Douglass, the communications director for the White House's Health Reform Office, in a video entitled "Facts are Stubborn Things" attacks the above quotes as "disinformation" and "dishonest." Douglass claims "because [Obama] is talking to the American people so much there are people out there with a computer and a lot of free time and they take a phrase here and there and they simple cherry pick and put it together and make it sound like he said something that he didn't really say."

The problem is that if one listens to Douglass' entire response, not once does she actually explain how any of the above quotes are out of context. She provides other recent quotes, such as the one in Obama's address to the AMA noted above, but that is not the same thing as showing that the quotes shown here are out of context. Repeated requests by to Ms. Douglass to explain why the quotes misrepresented what Obama was saying were ignored.

Possibly the Obama administration thinks it can win the debate by simply claiming that their opponents are dishonest, but they risk losing a lot of credibility among those who actually closely examine what is being claimed.

The president is not going to immediately take away private insurance, there will be some transition. But if he gets his way, it will go away.

*John Lott is the author of Freedomnomics. John Lott's past pieces for Fox News can be found here and here.

Home (description of book, downloadable data sets, and discussions of previous controversies)

Academic papers:

Social Science Research Network

Book Reviews:

For a list of book reviews on The Bias Against Guns, click here.

List of my Op-eds

Posts by topic

Appalachian law school attack

Baghdad murder rate

Arming Pilots

Fraudulent website pretending to be run by me

The Merced Pitchfork Killings and Vin Suprynowicz's quote

Ayres and Donohue

Stanford Law Review

Mother Jones article


Craig Newmark

Eric Rasmusen

William Sjostrom

Dr. T's

Interview with National Review Online

Lyonette Louis-Jacques's page on Firearms Regulation Worldwide

The End of Myth: An Interview with Dr. John Lott

Cold Comfort, Economist John Lott discusses the benefits of guns--and the hazards of pointing them out.

An interview with John R. Lott, Jr. author of More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws

Some data not found at

Updated Media Analysis of Appalachian Law School Attack

Since the first news search was done additional news stories have been added to Nexis:

There are thus now 218 unique stories, and a total of 294 stories counting duplicates (the stories in yellow were duplicates): Excel file for general overview and specific stories. Explicit mentions of defensive gun use increase from 2 to 3 now.

Journal of Legal Studies paper on spoiled ballots during the 2000 Presidential Election

Data set from USA Today, STATA 7.0 data set

"Do" File for some of the basic regressions from the paper