A new book about the life of Barack Obama's mother is casting doubt on an anecdote shared by the president during his 2008 election campaign and subsequent push for health care reform, The New York Times reports.
According to A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama's Mother, a biography written by Times reporter Janny Scott, Obama's mother, Ann Dunham, had health insurance during her battle with cancer in 1995, a claim that seems to run counter to the narrative repeatedly described by the president.
Politico relays the key passage from Scott's book:
"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."
Dunham filed a claim for those additional expenses with a different insurance company, CIGNA, under her employer's disability insurance policy. It was this claim which was rejected, after insurance investigators determined she had a pre-existing condition, Scott wrote.
During his second presidential debate with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the president offered a slightly different account, saying that insurance companies refused to pay for his mother's treatment:
"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."
At a town hall meeting in August 2009, during the heat of Obama's pitch for health care reform, the president similarly said, "I will never forget my own mother, as she fought cancer in her final months, having to worry about whether her insurance would refuse to pay for her treatment."
Conservatives have jumped on the differing accounts, Politico notes.
Glenn Beck's website, the Blaze, has tackled the issue with a post alleging the book proves "Obama's story about his mother's healthcare struggle is inaccurate."
The White House did not dispute the account in Scott's book, the Times reports, and stands by Obama's account of his mother's struggles with health insurance providers.
"We have not reviewed the letters or other material on which the author bases her account," White House spokesman Nicholas Papas, told the Times. "The president has told this story based on his recollection of events that took place more than 15 years ago."
"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," Papas told the Times.