Is there a health insurance horror story disseminated by the White House and its allies that ever turned out to be true? Obamacare advocates have exercised more artistic license than a convention of Photoshoppers. Now, a prominent sob story shilled by President Obama himself about his own mother is in doubt. It’s high past time to call their bluffs.
The tall-tale-teller-in-chief cited mom Stanley Ann Dunham’s deathbed fight with her insurer several times over the years to support his successful push to ban pre-existing condition exclusions by insurers. In a typical recounting, Obama shared his personalized trauma during a 2008 debate: “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.”
But there was something fundamentally wrong with Obama’s story. In a recently published biography of Obama’s mother, author and New York Times reporter Janny Scott discovered that Dunham’s health insurer had in fact reimbursed her medical expenses with nary an objection. The actual coverage dispute centered on a separate disability insurance policy.
Channeling document forger Dan Rather’s “fake, but accurate” defense, a White House spokesman insisted to the Times that the anecdote somehow still “speaks powerfully to the impact of pre-existing condition limits on insurance protection from health care costs” — even though Dunham’s primary health insurer did everything it was supposed to do and met all its contractual obligations.
No matter. Expanding government control over health care means never having to say you’re sorry for impugning private insurers. Democrats have dragged every available human shield into the contentious debate over Obama’s federal takeover of health care. Personal anecdotes of dying family members battling evil insurance execs deflect attention from the cost, constitutionality and liberty-curtailing consequences of the law. The president’s Dunham sham-ecdote is just the latest entry in an ever-expanding catalogue of Obamacare fables:
— Otto Raddatz. In 2009, Obama publicized the plight of this Illinois cancer patient, who supposedly died after he was dropped from his Fortis/Assurant Health insurance plan when his insurer discovered an unreported gallstone the patient hadn’t known about. The truth? He got the treatment he needed in 2005 and lived for nearly four more years.
— Robin Beaton. Also in 2009, Obama claimed Beaton — a breast cancer patient — lost her insurance after “she forgot to declare a case of acne.” In fact, she failed to disclose a previous heart condition and did not list her weight accurately, but had her insurance restored anyway after intense public lobbying.
— John Brodniak. A 23-year-old unemployed Oregon sawmill worker, Brodniak’s health woes were spotlighted by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof as a textbook argument for Obamacare. Brodniak was reportedly diagnosed with cavernous hemangioma, a neurological condition, and was allegedly turned away by emergency room doctors. Kristof called the case “monstrous” and decried opponents of Democrats’ health care proposals as heartless murderers. The truth? Brodniak not only had coverage through Oregon’s Medicaid program, but was also a neurology patient at the prestigious Oregon Health and Science University in Portland (a safety-net institution that accepts all Medicaid patients). Kristof never retracted the legend.
— Marcelas Owens. An 11-year-old boy from Seattle, Owens took a coveted spot next to the president in March 2010 when Obamacare was signed into law. Owens’ 27-year-old mother, Tiffany, died of pulmonary hypertension. The family said the single mother of three lost her job as a fast-food manager and lost her insurance. She died in 2007 after receiving emergency care and treatment throughout her illness. Progressive groups (for whom Marcelas’ relatives worked) dubbed Marcelas an “insurance abuse survivor.” But there wasn’t a shred of evidence that any insurer had “abused” the boy or his mom. Further, Washington State already offered a plethora of existing government assistance programs to laid-off and unemployed workers like Marcelas’ mom. The family and its p.r. agents never explained why she didn’t enroll.
— Natoma Canfield. The White House made the Ohio cancer patient a poster child for Obamacare in 2010 after she wrote a letter complaining about skyrocketing premiums and the prospect of losing her home. After Obama gave Canfield a shout-out at a health care rally in Strongsville, Ohio, and promised to control costs, officials at the renowned Cleveland Clinic, which is treating her, made clear that they would “not put a lien on her home” and that she was eligible for a wide variety of state aid and private charity care.
Since Obamacare passed, the amount workers pay in health care premiums has soared an average of nearly 14 percent; thousands of businesses have sought waivers in search of relief from the law’s onerous mandates; medical device makers have slashed jobs and research; and the private individual health insurance market is in critical condition. Post-Obamacare truth is bloodier than pro-Obamacare fiction.