The seven-minute video that played just before President Barack Obama took the stage at the Democratic National Convention to formally accept the party’s nomination was a recap of sorts of his first term in office — but did it also sneak in a debunked line about his mother’s death?
“When my mom got cancer she wasn’t a wealthy woman, and it pretty much drained all her resources,” Obama said in a voice over during a portion of the video devoted to passage of the health care law. [3:20 mark]
Michelle Obama was featured next: “Watching your mother die of something that could have been prevented — that’s a tough thing to deal with.”
It’s a line nearly identical to the one she gave in the 17-minute, Tom Hanks-narrated “The Road We’ve Traveled” campaign film released earlier this year. At the time, the Washington Post’s Fact Checker took on that account of Obama’s mother’s cancer and her fight with insurance, awarding it three Pinocchios.
The Post’s Fact Checker stated, in part:
The first lady also suggests the death “could have been prevented.” … it was not an insurance issue. Before going overseas, Dunham was too busy with work and had skipped an important test recommended by her U.S. doctor, dilation and curettage, that might have spotted the cancer earlier. Then an Indonesian doctor diagnosed her problem as appendicitis and removed her appendix. By the time the cancer was finally discovered, it was third-stage.
As the Post noted, Obama in 2008 repeatedly made reference to the notion that his mother was denied health coverage and with it could have lived longer. But journalist Janny Scott wrote in her biography of Stanley Ann Dunham that Obama’s mother’s coverage dispute was for disability, not health insurance:
Scott writes that Dunham, who died in 1995 of uterine and ovarian cancer, had health insurance that “covered most of the costs of her medical treatment…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 had filed the disability claim to help pay for those additional expenses. The company denied the claim because her doctor had suspected uterine cancer during an office visit 2 ½ months before Dunham had started the job with Development Alternatives, though Dunham said the doctor had not discussed the possibility with cancer with her. Dunham requested a review from CIGNA, saying she was turning the case over to “my son and attorney Barack Obama.”
A White House spokesman said at the time that “the president has told this story based on his recollection of events that took place more than 15 years ago.”
Read the Post’s full fact check here.