White House stands behind Obama on mother's insurance

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 15, 2011 5:34 PM
White House stands behind Obama on mother's insurance

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The story of President Barack Obama's mother's fight with insurance companies as she suffered from cancer is still compelling, despite a recent book's suggestion it was embellished during the campaign, a White House spokesman said.

Janny Scott's biography published in May about Ann Durham -- "A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama's Mother" -- questions the account Obama gave in his campaign and his effort to overhaul healthcare.

"This personal history of the President's speaks powerfully to the impact of preexisting condition limits on insurance protection from health care costs," White House spokesman Nicholas Papas said in an emailed statement on Friday.

The anecdote described a mother battling cancer only to have insurance companies insist she was ineligible for coverage because of a preexisting condition.

However Scott, who took a leave from the New York Times to write the book, said her research found that letters written in 1995 by Durham indicated most of her expenses were covered through her primary insurance provider and that the dispute arose from a supplementary disability claim to cover the cost of her deductible.

"As Ms. Scott's account makes clear, the President's mother incurred several hundred dollars in monthly uncovered medical expenses that she was relying on insurance to pay," Papas said.

"She first could not get a response from the insurance company, then was refused coverage."

Papas did not challenge the book's claims, but suggested there were only minor differences in details.

"We have not reviewed the letters or other material on which the author bases her account," Papas said.

"The President has told this story based on his recollection of events that took place more than 15 years ago."

(Reporting by Wendell Marsh; Editing by Jerry Norton)