A Tale of Two Uninsureds: President Changes Number from 46-47 Million to 'Over 30 Million'

What’s 16-17 million uninsured among 300 million Americans?

Apparently not much to President Barack Obama, who slipped a not-so-subtle change to a statistic he had cited previously different during his Sept. 9 address to a joint session of Congress. The president pointed out there are “more than 30 million American citizens” who are having difficulty obtaining health insurance.

“We are the only advanced democracy on Earth – the only wealthy nation – that allows such hardships for millions of its people,” Obama said. “There are now more than 30 million American citizens who cannot get coverage. In just a two year period, one in every three Americans goes without health care coverage at some point. And every day, 14,000 Americans lose their coverage. In other words, it can happen to anyone.”

That’s quite a change from earlier this year when Obama was using different numbers. On July 22, the president used a much larger number in a press conference. He said had cited “47 million Americans” with no insurance, a mistake that had been made the previous two years by many in the media (emphasis added).

This is not just about the 47 million Americans who don't have any health insurance at all,” Obama said. “Reform is about every American who has ever feared that they may lose their coverage if they become too sick, or lose their job, or change their job. It's about every small business that has been forced to lay off employees or cut back on their coverage because it became too expensive.”

And with the exception of a Fox News commentator Frank Luntz on the FNC’s Sept 9 “Hannity” and ABC News White House correspondent Jake Tapper, who pointed it out on the social media Web site Twitter, the subtle change when relatively unnoticed by the media.

“Up until tonight, it was always 47 million,” Luntz said. “But what they realized was that they were defending health care coverage - government money, your taxpayer dollars - going to illegal immigrants that they realized they had to take them out of the pool.”

The total number of uninsured, 45.7 million according to the U.S. Census, also includes roughly 10 million people who are not citizens. The Census Bureau is scheduled to update that number this month.

Back in May, the administration was using the number “46 million Americans, instead.” All three morning shows brought on Health and Human Services Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, May 12 to discuss health care reform. In her NBC interview, Sebelius claimed that 46 million Americans were uninsured. Obama cited the same number in a March 5 speech about health care reform.