Saturday, July 16, 2011
A new book challenges President Barack Obama’s carefully constructed mythology about his late mother’s deathbed fight with her health insurance company.
Throughout the 2008 presidential campaign, then-candidate Barack Obama regaled audiences with the story of how his mother, Ann Durham, hospitalized with terminal cancer, waged a valiant fight with her employer-provided health insurance, to pay claims for her medical expenses.
Obama’s narrative was a compelling argument for ending pre-existing condition exclusions the vast majority of health insurers underwrite into policies.
In his second debate with Sen. John McCain of Arizona, in October 2008, Obama said:
“For my mother to die of cancer at the age of 53 and have to spend the last months of her life in the hospital room arguing with insurance companies because they’re saying that this may be a pre-existing condition and they don’t have to pay her treatment, there’s something fundamentally wrong about that.”
However, in a New York Times review of “A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother,” by author Janny Scott, Scott quotes from correspondence from the president’s mother to assert that the 1995 dispute centered around a Cigna disability insurance policy and that her health insurer had in fact, reimbursed nearly all of his mother’s medical expenses, without argument.
On Wednesday, after repeated requests for comment that The Times first made in mid-June, shortly after the book’s release, a White House spokesman did not dispute Ms. Scott’s account but suggested Mr. Obama’s told the story based on his recollection of events that took place “more than 15 years ago.”