CNN's 'Explainer' on Health Care Makes a Big Mistake

Listen to President Barack Obama and there are “nearly 46 million” reasons for health care reform. That, according to the president as recently as August 11, is the number of uninsured Americans.


He’s wrong, according to a better authority – the U.S. Census. Unfortunately, 46 million Americans, or something close, is a number widely used in the media. And that’s months into the health care debate. The latest example of the error is CNN – on both the network and the organization’s Web site.

The U.S. Census says the total number of uninsured is actually no larger than 36 million Americans – an error of 28 percent for “The Most Trusted Name in News.” The Census agrees there are 46 million people without health insurance (45.7 million rounded up), but 9.7 million of those aren’t citizens. (Page 22 of the PDF.)


The Census doesn’t track whether a person is in the country legally or not, but the issue of insuring illegal aliens has become a big sticking point for reform. A health care proposal in the House specifically prevents illegal immigrants from getting health insurance funded, wrote The Wall Street Journal August 15. The paper added that at least 6 million of those illegals lack health insurance.


Into that controversy comes CNN with repeated errors backing Obama’s position that the number of uninsured Americans is quite large.


On August 15, anchor Melissa Long cited the wrong number to CNN’s Ali Velshi. “Forty-six million Americans uninsured. It seems like a lot of people agree that something needs to be done, but they just don’t want it rushed through the halls of Congress.”


The day before, she had directed viewers to where an “explainer” also got it wrong. Under the section titled “A Mandate,” the item reads: “About 46 million Americans are living without health insurance today.”


It’s been a common problem for CNN recently. Anchor Wolf Blitzer made the same mistake during an August 12 spot on “The Situation Room.” Blitzer followed up health care comments by Sen. Ben Cardin, D-MD, with the mistake. “In terms of what makes sense, some protesters now question if the estimated 46 million uninsured Americans should get universal health care.”

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