As he campaigned for the presidency in 2008, Barack Obama used a deeply personal story about his mother’s death from cancer to pitch his health care plan. According to Byron York, a new biography of Stanley Anne Dunham suggests that Obama’s story was at least partly a convenient fiction.
“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 insurance companies were saying, ‘Maybe there’s a pre-existing condition and we don’t have to pay your medical bills,’ ” Obama said in a debate with Republican opponent Sen. John McCain in October 2008.
But according to the biography, A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother, by New York Times reporter Janny Scott, when Dunham was struck with cancer, her health insurance provider covered her medical costs straight away. Her employer even offered to cover her travel costs if she wanted to leave Jakarta to get treatment in the US, which she eventually took them up on. There was a dispute over paying the deductible, which amounted to a few hundred dollars a month and was surely a hardship. But neither the insurance company nor anyone else was on the hook for that cost. Dunham petitioned the insurance carrier, CIGNA, to cover it and they declined.
Scott writes that Dunham, who wanted to be compensated for those costs as well as for her living expenses, “filed a separate claim under her employer’s disability insurance policy.” It was that claim, with the insurance company CIGNA, that was denied in August 1995 because, CIGNA investigators said, Dunham’s condition was known before she was covered by the policy.
Dunham protested the decision and, Scott writes, “informed CIGNA that she was turning over the case to ‘my son and attorney, Barack Obama.’ ” CIGNA did not budge.
In September 1995, Dunham traveled to New York for an evaluation at the renowned Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Returning to Hawaii, she began a new course of treatment. She died in November.
Dunham would return 13 years later as a prop in her son’s campaign for the presidency, her truly sad story edited to make it useful for her son’s politics. If the man will shade the truth about how his own mother died…