Of the following statements made by President Obama in his speech on health reform last week, which is not true? Answer below the fold.

a) “if you are among the hundreds of millions of Americans who already have health insurance through your job, or Medicare, or Medicaid, or the VA, nothing in this plan will require you or your employer to change the coverage or the doctor you have. ”

b) “the reforms I’m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally. ”

c) Now, this is the plan I’m proposing. It’s a plan that incorporates ideas from many of the people in this room tonight — Democrats and Republicans.

d) Reducing the waste and inefficiency in Medicare and Medicaid will pay for most of this plan.Strictly speaking, I would suggest that none of these statements was true. In addition, the following statements also were misleading:

e) “if you’re one of the tens of millions of Americans who don’t currently have health insurance, the second part of this plan will finally offer you quality, affordable choices. ”

f) “Under this plan, it will be against the law for insurance companies to deny you coverage because of a preexisting condition.”

g) “under my plan, individuals will be required to carry basic health insurance”

h) “It [the public option] is only part of my plan”

i) “we’ve estimated that most of this plan can be paid for by finding savings within the existing health care system”

j) “the plan I’m proposing will cost around $900 billion over 10 years”

k) “The only thing this plan would eliminate is the hundreds of billions of dollars in waste and fraud, as well as unwarranted subsidies in Medicare that go to insurance companies”

What is misleading about statements (a) – (k) is that each of them referred to a plan that, strictly speaking, does not exist. As far as I know, the Obama Administration never submitted a plan to Congress.

One can argue that this is beside the point. He did not need to offer a plan because

i) he is endorsing a bill already in Congress. (but if so, which bill?)

ii) he is speaking in broad outlines, leaving Congress to fill in the details (but if so, how does he know that it is feasible {a} to cut enough spending to pay for the plan without eliminating anything other than waste and abuse and {b} to mandate health insurance without forcing anyone to change what they currently have)?

iii) The conventional wisdom is that Hillary Clinton failed because she presented a plan and it was shot down. So it is really clever to not have a plan, and instead to get behind something that will pass and call it a plan. (Speaking of Hillarycare, its main source of funding was going to be cuts in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements that everybody knew would never be adopted in practice. Apparently, Baucuscare retains that feature. The NY Times rounds up more commentary on the Baucus plan, which itself is not fully spelled out, although it runs to 225 pages.) If our democracy penalizes those who spell out their plans and rewards those who do not, then that is one more bad mark against our democracy.

If you are going to repeatedly refer to “my plan” or “this plan” or “the plan I’m proposing,” then unless you have a plan you are lying. The only question is whether it is a little lie or a big one. Obviously, most people think it is only a small lie, or the President would have been called out on it. However, I think that health care policy is an area where there is too much temptation to promise results that are economically impossible to achieve. In that context, my opinion is that giving a speech in favor of a nonexistent plan is a really big lie.