Just as he did a year ago, Obama made a splashy announcement about rebates that incorporates misleading advertising.
The health care law requires insurance companies that spend too much on administrative expenses to issue rebates to customers. But those customers are often employers that in turn offer insurance to workers and bear the bulk of the costs. In workplace plans, the rebate goes to the employer, which must use it for the company health plan but does not have to pass all or part of it on to the worker. People who buy their own insurance and qualify for a rebate get it directly.
Obama was on solid ground in saying "millions of Americans" got rebate checks last year, but the number was not close to 13 million as he implied.
Of the 12.8 million rebates announced last year, health policy experts estimated 3 million would go directly to the insured. The government didn't know how many.Even if all the rebates went directly into consumers' hands,they probably would not do the president much political good. Consider public opinion on tax rebates in 2001 and 2008:
A new Gallup poll, conducted July 19-22, shows that Americans are somewhat ambivalent about the impact of the tax cut on the country, with four in 10 thinking it will be a good thing, another four in 10 saying it will make no difference, and two in 10 saying it will be a bad thing. That poll also finds that only 11% of Americans think the $300 to $600 rebate will make a big difference to them and their families, while 21% say it will make "some" difference. A clear majority (63%) say it will make little or no difference to them -- 30% only a little difference, and another 33% no difference.CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll. April 28-30, 2008.
"As you may know, President Bush and the Democrats in Congress passed an economic stimulus package earlier this year that will provide a tax rebate check of several hundred dollars to most American families. Based on what you have read or heard about this package, do you think it does enough to help economic conditions, does too much, or does not do enough?"
When asked to rate current economic conditions, 43% of those who have already received their tax rebates rate the U.S. economy as "poor" and 18% rate it as "excellent" or "good," while 43% of those who have not received a rebate also rate the economy as "poor" and 16% rate it as "excellent" or "good."