Obama's Insurance Company Abuse Illustration Wasn't True
This from the Wall Street Journal...
WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama, seeking to make a case for health-insurance regulation, told a poignant story to a joint session of Congress last week. An Illinois man getting chemotherapy was dropped from his insurance plan when his insurer discovered an unreported gallstone the patient hadn't known about.
"They delayed his treatment, and he died because of it," the president said in the nationally televised address.
In fact, the man, Otto S. Raddatz, didn't die because the insurance company rescinded his coverage once he became ill, an act known as recission. The efforts of his sister and the office of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan got Mr. Raddatz's policy reinstated within three weeks of his April 2005 rescission and secured a life-extending stem-cell transplant for him. Mr. Raddatz died this year, nearly four years after the insurance showdown.
Obama aides say the president got the essence of the story correct. Mr. Raddatz was dropped from his insurance plan weeks before a scheduled stem-cell transplant.
In a letter, Babs Waldman, medical director of the Illinois attorney general's office, excoriated the insurer, Fortis Health, which is now Assurant Health. Mr. Raddatz "suddenly faces not only life-threatening illness but now the inability to afford the only treatment that may help him," Dr. Waldman wrote to the insurer May 3, 2005.
Peter Duckler, a spokesman for Assurant Health, said the company "can never comment on an insured's coverage due to confidentiality issues."
The patient's sister, Peggy M. Raddatz, testified before the House Energy and Commerce oversight subcommittee June 16 that her brother ultimately received treatment that "extended his life approximately three years." Nowhere in the hearing did she say her brother died because of the delay. Ms. Raddatz didn't return calls seeking comment.
Obama speech writers appear to have been informed by erroneous media reports, including an article on Slate.com that stated, "The delay in treatment eliminated Raddatz's chances of recovery, and he died." Its author, Timothy Noah, said Wednesday that he wasn't contacted by the White House and didn't realize Mr. Raddatz hadn't died because of the treatment delay.
Another story that Mr. Obama used from the same House investigation squares with the testimony of Robin Beaton, who said she was dropped by her insurer days before a scheduled double mastectomy. By the time her insurance was reinstated, in part because of the intervention of Rep. Joe Barton (R., Tex.), her tumor had tripled in size. The president understated that in his address, saying it had more than doubled in size.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D., Ill.), a member of the House subcommittee that investigated the Raddatz case, said there may have been insufficient vetting of Mr. Raddatz's story by the president's aides. But, she added, "To focus on that is kind of a 'gotcha.'"