During a presidential debate with Arizona Sen. John McCain, Obama again linked the story of his mother’s final days with his push for health care reform.
“For my mother to die of cancer at the age of 53,” he argued, “and have to spend the last months of her life in the hospital room arguing with insurance companies because they’re saying that this may be a pre-existing condition and they don’t have to pay her treatment, there’s something fundamentally wrong about that.”
But Scott, the biographer, found that it never happened.
Writing for The Washington Post’s “The Fact Checker” blog in March 2012, Glenn Kessler wrote that “Scott reviewed letters from Dunham to the CIGNA insurance company, and revealed the dispute was over disability coverage, not health insurance coverage.”
Obama’s 2007-2008 story hasn’t changed significantly during the 2012 campaign. In “The Road We’ve Traveled,” a 2012 documentary produced for the Obama campaign, narrator Tom Hanks says Obama “knew from experience the cost of waiting” for health care reform.
“When my mom got cancer,” the president says on-screen, “she wasn’t a wealthy woman, and it pretty much drained all her resources.”
The first lady adds some details. “She developed ovarian cancer, never really had good, consistent insurance,” she says in the film. “That’s a tough thing to deal with, watching your mother die of something that could have been prevented. I don’t think he wants to see anyone go through that.”
Hanks closes the loop on the political messaging, telling film-goers that Obama “remembered the millions of families like of his who feel the pressure of rising costs and the fear of being denied or dropped from coverage.”