A new book by New York Times reporter Janny Scott sheds new light on the life of Barack Obama’s mother, Ann Dunham, including her final years. Scott found while assembling information for “A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother,” that Dunham in fact did have health coverage for her ovarian cancer, based off Dunham’s own past correspondence. Washington Examiner’s Byron York:
“Dunham decided to stay in Jakarta, where she underwent an appendectomy. But the pain did not go away, and Dunham feared, correctly, that she was terribly ill. In January 1995 she left Indonesia to go home to Honolulu, where she was diagnosed with advanced uterine and ovarian cancer. She began a regime of surgery and chemotherapy.
That is the time during which Obama says his mother battled insurance companies to cover her illness. But Scott, who had access to Dunham’s correspondence from the time, reveals that Dunham unquestionably had health coverage. ‘Ann’s compensation for her job in Jakarta had included health insurance, which covered most of the costs of her medical treatment,’ Scott writes. ‘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.”
Often in his 2008 campaign and throughout his push for national healthcare reform, Barack Obama retold a compelling story of his mother’s struggle against non-budging insurance companies for care in the final years of her life before the cancer over took her.
“‘I remember in the last month of her life, she wasn’t thinking about how to get well, she wasn’t thinking about coming to terms with her own mortality, she was thinking about whether or not insurance was going to cover the medical bills and whether our family would be bankrupt as a consequence,’ Obama said in September 2007.
‘She was in her hospital room looking at insurance forms because the insurance company said that maybe she had a pre-existing condition and maybe they wouldn’t have to reimburse her for her medical bills,’ Obama added in January 2008.”
The seemingly heartfelt pitch by Obama now appears to have glossed over many of the facts. Scott’s book reveals that Dunham was compensated for most of her treatment aside from one denied claim in August 1995. Scott writes that Dunham was denied coverage by CIGNA for a separate claim under her employer’s disability insurance policy, where she wanted to be compensated for medical costs as well as her living expenses. Scott writes that Obama’s tale of his mother’s battle with insurance companies was “abbreviated,” for the fact that Ann Dunham did indeed have health insurance pay for her treatment:
“Though he(Obama) often suggested that she was denied health coverage because of a pre-existing condition, it appears from her correspondence that she was only denied disability coverage’”
In this video from February 2010 Obama claims his mother was self-employed and seemingly denied any coverage:
Barack Obama at the February 2010 Healthcare summit:
“My Mother, who was self-employed, didn’t have reliable healthcare, and she died of ovarian cancer. There probably is nothing modern medicine could have done about that, it was caught late and thats a hard cancer to diagnose. I do remember the last six months of her life, insurance companies threatening that they would not reimburse her for her costs. And her having to be on the phone in the hospital argueing with insurance companies when what she should have been doing is spending time with her family.”
Scott’s investigation however shows that in 1994 Dunham took a job with an American company called Development Alternatives, which had a contract with the Indonesian State Ministry for the Role of Women. Dunham returned to Jakarta to work where Scott reports the job provided Dunham with health insurance, a housing allowance, and a car.
Dunham was extremely ill, and her frustrations in the final year of her life are not for you or I to judge. 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.