"Our cost-cutting measures mirror most of the proposals in the current Senate bill, which reduces most people's premiums and brings down our deficit by up to $1 trillion dollars over the next decade because we're spending our health care dollars more wisely," Mr. Obama told an audience at Arcadia University in Glenside, Pa., a suburb north of Philadelphia.
The President was so proud of these cost-saving numbers in the latest version of health care reform, he delved into a bit of Washington-speak to back them up.
"Those aren't my numbers," President Obama said to the rising applause of the estimated 1,300 in attendance. "They are the savings determined by the Congressional Budget Office, which is the nonpartisan, independent referee of Congress for what things cost."
That part is true. The budget office does keep score of what things cost. More precisely, the budget office projects what things cost or save over a given period of time.
But the budget office did not say the Senate health care bill would save $1 trillion over the next decade. Not even close.
It estimated the bill would save $132 billion from 2010 to 2019, leaving President Obama's "next decade" estimate $868 billion short.
That's some rounding error.
When contacted, a White House official said the President meant to say the Senate bill would save $1 trillion in its second decade.
The budget office did project possible second-decade savings of up to $1 trillion, but attached this note of caution: "A detailed year-by-year projection for years beyond 2019...would not be meaningful because the uncertainties involved are simply too great."
In his remarks today, President Obama made the case that all issues had been considered, all ideas vetted. It was time, he said, to take a stand.
"We have debated healthcare in Washington for more than a year," Mr. Obama said. "Every proposal has been put on the table. Every argument has been made. The need is great, the opportunity is here. Let's seize reform. It's within our grasp."
What is not in the President's grasp, or the taxpayer's for that matter, is the alluring prospect of $1 trillion in health care savings in the "next decade." But there is the hope, though it "would not be meaningful," of that magnitude of savings starting in the decade beginning in 2020.
By the way, the budget office projects a 2020 deficit of $1.3 trillion. A number like that would make $1 trillion in health care savings from 2020-2029 meaningful indeed.