The White House isn’t challenging a new book’s account suggesting that President Barack Obama fumbled the details of a pivotal anecdote about his mother’s deathbed dispute with an insurance company, according to The New York Times
|A young Barack Obama with his mother, Ann Dunham. (Photo from Obama.net)
During the 2008 presidential campaign and also during the ensuing fight over the healthcare law after his election, Obama repeated a story that his mother had to battle her insurer’s contention that her cancer was a pre-existing condition that disqualified her from coverage, the Times reports. He recounted the story in pushing to end insurers' pre-existing condition exclusions, leaving the impression that his mother’s fight involved health benefits for medical expenses.
But author Janny Scott’s book, “A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother,” quotes correspondence from Obama’s mother, Ann Dunham, indicating that the 1995 dispute involved a Cigna disability insurance policy instead of health benefits, and that her health insurer had reimbursed most of her medical expenses without dispute.
The Times repeatedly requested White House reaction since in mid-June, shortly after the book was released, and finally got the response Wednesday, when “a White House spokesman chose not to dispute either Ms. Scott’s account or Mr. Obama’s memory, while arguing that Mr. Obama’s broader point remained salient,” the Times reports.
“We have not reviewed the letters or other material on which the author bases her account,” the Times quotes spokesman Nicholas Papas as saying. “The president has told this story based on his recollection of events that took place more than 15 years ago.”
Scott, who took a leave of absence from the Times to compile the book and has not returned to that job yet, noted in the tome that Dunham had an employer-provided health insurance policy that paid her hospital bills directly, leaving her “to pay only the deductible and any uncovered expenses, which, she said, came to several hundred dollars a month.”
Papas further told the Times: “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 healthcare costs.”
Dunham, an anthropologist, died in 1995, less than a year after her diagnosis.
Disability insurance, which replaces primarily wages lost during an illness, was not on the table during the debate over revamping the nation’s healthcare law.
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