During his presidential campaign and subsequent battle over a health care law, Mr. Obama quieted crowds with the story of his mother’s fight with her insurer over whether her cancer was a pre-existing condition that disqualified her from coverage.The book came out in early May. The reason this article is hitting the front page today is that the NYT has been trying to extract a response from Obama.
In offering the story as an argument for ending pre-existing condition exclusions by health insurers, the president left the clear impression that his mother’s fight was over health benefits for medical expenses.
But in “A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother,” author Janny Scott quotes from correspondence from the president’s mother to assert that the 1995 dispute concerned a Cigna disability insurance policy and that her actual health insurer had apparently reimbursed most of her medical expenses without argument....
On Wednesday, in response to repeated requests for comment that The Times first made in mid-June, shortly after the book’s release....It took repeated requests for the NYT to get an answer to such an important question?!
... a White House spokesman chose not to dispute either Ms. Scott’s account or Mr. Obama’s memory, while arguing that Mr. Obama’s broader point remained salient.
“We have not reviewed the letters or other material on which the author bases her account,” said Nicholas Papas, the spokesman. “The president has told this story based on his recollection of events that took place more than 15 years ago.”This is the standard response of the memoirist: These are my memories. This is how I remember it. Even if I am mistaken, there is truth in the way this story has become part of me. (That notion is expressed beautifully in the interview at the end of the audiobook version of the thoroughly delightful "The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir.")
But I don't accept that the President could have an innocently false memory about this story, which he milked dramatically, as Byron York describes here:
"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.Those terrible, heartless corporations have been a theme of the Obama presidency. He has been trying to structure American brains around that idea, so he can win acceptance of policies that most Americans don't want, and that story of his personal agony played an important role in pushing through an immense federal power.
"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.