President Obama’s Mom Had No Problems With Her Health Insurance, It Turns Out

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Photo: Courtesy Obama for America

From the presidential campaign in 2008 all the way through his crusade to pass health-care reform in 2010, President Obama repeatedly shared a personal heart-wrenching anecdote to vividly illustrate one of the problems with the current insurance system. His mother, diagnosed with uterine and ovarian cancer, had spent the last months of her life arguing with her insurance company over her medical bills, which the insurance company refused to pay because it said her cancer was a preexisting condition. The health-care-reform law that was eventually passed in 2010 made it illegal for insurance companies to deny coverage because of preexisting conditions. But a new book about Obama's mother disputes the veracity of the story. It was actually Stanley Ann Dunham's disability insurer that was giving her a hard time, author Janny Scott writes in A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother. While Dunham did have health-care coverage, it still left her with hundreds in monthly costs, and she hoped her disability insurance would help to cover those costs as well as living expenses. Reached by the Times, the White House didn't dispute the claim:


“We have not reviewed the letters or other material on which the author bases her account,” said Nicholas Papas, the spokesman. “The president has told this story based on his recollection of events that took place more than 15 years ago.”....

Mr. Papas suggested that even if Ms. Scott was correct, Mr. Obama had not mischaracterized the facts because his mother needed her disability insurance payments to cover unreimbursed medical costs.

“As Ms. Scott’s account makes clear, the president’s mother incurred several hundred dollars in monthly uncovered medical expenses that she was relying on insurance to pay,” Mr. Papas said. “She first could not get a response from the insurance company, then was refused coverage. This personal history of the president’s speaks powerfully to the impact of pre-existing condition limits on insurance protection from health care costs.”

Papas is right, in a way. However, Obama never said something along the lines of, "After witnessing what my mom went through with her disability insurance, I know firsthand how important it is to eradicate this policy from the health-insurance industry." Instead, his story made everyone assume that his mom was wrangling over her health insurance, since health insurance was, you know, what we were talking about. He deceived us, over and over again, for the sole purpose of forcing insurance companies to finally treat sick people with respect. For shame, Obama, for shame.

Book Challenges Obama on Mother’s Deathbed Fight [NYT]