As we approach the two-year anniversary of the ramming through of Obamacare this Friday, it’s fun to remember some of the lies and demagoguery that the democrats used to try, unsuccessfully, to build support for it. Davis Guggenheim’s crockumentary, The Road We’ve Traveled” is a propaganda masterpiece, and it has recycled some of the garbage Obama was peddling in 2008 to try to keep his sorry rear end in the Oval Office (and the First Klingon’s substantially larger posterior jetting around the planet on our dime). Today, the Washington Post’s Fact Checker column deals with the misleading impression the film creates about Obama’s commitment to destroying our health care system being fueled by watching his dying mother battle her health insurance company. Uh, no. She had health insurance, and it covered the cost to treat her cancer. In a story headlined ‘The Road We’ve Traveled:’ A misleading account of Obama’s mother and her insurance dispute,” they write:
During the 2008 campaign, Obama frequently suggested his mother had to fight with her health-insurance company for treatment of her cancer because it considered her disease to be a pre-existing condition. In one of the presidential debates with GOP rival John McCain, Obama said:
“For my mother to die of cancer at the age of 53 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 then earlier this year, journalist Janny Scott cast serious doubt on this version of events in her excellent biography, “A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s mother.” Scott reviewed letters from Dunham to the CIGNA insurance company, and revealed the dispute was over disability coverage, not health insurance coverage (see pages 335-339).
Now let’s look at what the movie does with this story. It does not directly repeat the claim that Obama’s mother was denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition, fighting for treatment in her hospital room. But look at what it does say:
1. Hanks says the president knew the cost of waiting on reform. (Though disability coverage was not an issue in the health care debate.)
2. The president says cancer “drained all her resources.” (Health insurance paid for most of her bills, so this is not the case of someone being bankrupted by tens of thousands of dollars in bills. Her salary of $82,500 in 1995 was the equivalent of $123,000 today, but Scott says she had little savings.)
3. Michelle Obama says Dunham “never really had good, consistent insurance.” (It is unclear what she means by this, except maybe that Dunham had different jobs, some of which did not provide insurance. But Dunham had good health coverage when the cancer was discovered.)
4. The first lady also suggests the death “could have been prevented.” (Again, it was not an insurance issue. Before going overseas, Dunham was too busy with work and had skipped an important test recommended by her U.S. doctor, dilation and curettage, that might have spotted the cancer earlier. Then an Indonesian doctor diagnosed her problem as appendicitis and removed her appendix. By the time the cancer was finally discovered, it was third-stage.)
5. Hanks says that Obama’s family felt “the pressure of rising costs and the fear of being denied or dropped from coverage.” (Maybe for disability, but not health insurance.)
In the end, the impression left by the film, especially if you watch it (go to the 8:45 mark), is very similar to Obama’s 2008 campaign rhetoric: His mother was denied health-insurance coverage, draining her resources, and with better coverage she might have lived longer. The film suggests this experience helped inspire the president to keep fighting for the health care law, even in the face of advice from aides that he accept a less-than-satisfactory compromise.
Note that none of the quotes in the film actually use the words “health insurance” or “health insurance coverage.” Instead, the first lady says “insurance” and Hanks says “coverage,” which could just as easily mean disability insurance. But that would not be as evocative—or as motivating.
Misleading much? Apparently, lies are justified in the service of hope and change. But then, you already knew that.