President Barack Obama’s mother had no major problems with her health insurance coverage at the time she was dying of ovarian cancer in 1995, a new book about her life claims, raising questions about the accuracy of a story that Obama often told on the campaign trail in 2008.
New York Times reporter Janny Scott’s “A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother” says that Ann Dunham’s health insurance covered most of the costs of her medical treatment, leaving her to pay the deductible and any uncovered expenses. Those came to several hundred dollars a month.
The book says Dunham’s problem was not over being denied health insurance because of a pre-existing condition – as Obama often suggested on the campaign trail as he made the case for health care reform – but disability insurance.
Dunham, Scott wrote, wanted to be compensated for living expenses and additional costs under her employer’s disability insurance policy. CIGNA denied that claim, the book says.
Scott said she found no evidence showing Dunham had a similar type of dispute with her unnamed health insurer as she had over her employer’s disability policy, according to The New York Times.
Scott wrote: “Ann’s compensation for her job in Jakarta had included health insurance, which covered most of the costs of her medical treatment. Once she was back in Hawaii, the hospital billed her insurance company directly, leaving Ann to pay only the deductible and any uncovered expenses, which, she said, came to several hundred dollars a month.”
That account, written based on letters between Obama’s mother and Cigna – that the author said were provided to her by Dunham’s friends – appears not to match fully with how her son described his mother’s last days on the 2008 campaign trail
For instance, during a debate with John McCain, 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.”
The book’s assertion was not denied by the White House after “repeated requests for comment that The Times first made in mid-June,” the New York Times reported on Thursday.
Spokesman Nick Papas said the White House has “not reviewed the letters or other materials on which the author bases her account.”
Papas said Scott’s revelations do not change the broad strokes of Obama’s story of his mother’s last days.
“The president has told this story based on his recollection of events that took place more than 15 years ago,” he said. “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. 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.”
The Times story about a book that came out in May appeared after a couple days of conservative blogosphere buzz following a Byron York column on Monday about the book in the Washington Examiner.
At the Blaze, Glenn Beck’s web site, Christopher Santarelli wrote that “Obama’s story about his mother’s healthcare struggle is inaccurate.”
“Dunham was extremely ill, and her frustrations in the final year of her life are not for you or I to judge,” Santarelli wrote. “However revelations in Scott’s new book suggest many personal statements made by the President in his campaign and national healthcare reform pitch to be inaccurate.”
Related: Was Obama’s mother a welfare queen?
Time for a little Three Dog Night…