Chicago Sun-Times
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Fact check: Obama right blasting insurance company for yanking Illinois man coverage. Wrong saying he died because of delayed treatment

| 17 Comments


Obama jab at insurer went too far

HEALTH REFORM | Obama said Illinois man died because loss of coverage caused delay -- in fact, policy got reinstated, no proof wait was fatal

WASHINGTON -- When President Obama addressed a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, he wanted to vividly convey heartbreaking stories of sick folks getting screwed by insurance companies to pressure lawmakers to pass health care reform legislation.


Obama wants to make it impossible for people to have their health insurance coverage denied or yanked because of pre-existing conditions. He is in a battle with Congress to crack down on the insurers.

Obama talked about the case of a now-deceased Downers Grove man, Otto Raddatz. Raddatz suffered horrific treatment from his insurance company. His case illustrates Obama's larger point: Insurance companies shouldn't be able to trump up a flimsy pretext to cancel a policy of someone who is sick.

Fortis Insurance Co. deserves all the scorn Obama sent its way on Wednesday. The company canceled Raddatz's policy when he needed it the most, in chemotherapy for stage IV non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a form of cancer.

But the decision of the company was reversed and the insurer was forced to pay benefits because of the persistent efforts of his sister Peggy Raddatz, a LaGrange attorney. She found her way to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's Health Care Bureau and kept up the pressure. Otto Raddatz fought his insurance company in April 2005 and won. Raddatz did not, as Obama said, die because of delayed treatment in 2005. He died in January.

Obama senior adviser David Axelrod said Obama got "the essence" of the Raddatz story "exactly right," and "the point the president wanted to make and did make" was that "insurance companies look for excuses to rescind their coverage just when [a person] needs it the most. ... And that practice has got to stop."

Obama went too far, though, when he claimed in his speech that Raddatz died because the coverage was withdrawn. Here's what Obama said Wednesday:

"One man from Illinois lost his coverage in the middle of chemotherapy because his insurer found that he hadn't reported gallstones that he didn't even know about. They delayed his treatment, and he died because of it."

The last sentence of Obama's can't be supported. Obama speechwriters, I was told, got their information about Raddatz in a July 27 story in Slate about the health care crisis, which said -- incorrectly -- that a fight over benefits delayed treatment, "eliminated Raddatz's chances of recovery, and he died."

Though Obama did not identify Raddatz, a White House spokesman confirmed his identity.

Here's a timeline I put together on the Raddatz case, drawn from Peggy Raddatz's June 16 testimony before a House Energy and Commerce panel dealing with bad insurers and a narrative provided by Madigan's office:

••September 2004: Otto Raddatz, 59, was diagnosed with cancer and started chemotherapy.

••January 2005: Raddatz prepared for a stem cell transplant.

••April 15, 2005: Fortis canceled Raddatz's insurance. Fortis claimed Raddatz failed to disclose that a 2000 CT scan showed gallstones and an aneurysm. Peggy Raddatz said her brother was never told of those CT findings.

••April 25, 2005: Raddatz filed a complaint with Madigan's office.

He had been scheduled for stem cell transplant surgery in three weeks. A delay at this point threatened his life.

Madigan's office filed an appeal. It was rejected the same day.

Madigan's office built a better case and filed a second appeal. Fortis reinstated Raddatz's policy. Raddatz did receive the stem cell transplant. The AG closed the case on May 6, 2005.

••Jan. 6, 2009: Raddatz died. Peggy Raddatz testified in June that the transplant "was extremely successful. It extended his life approximately 3½ years."

Sun-Times reporter Cheryl V. Jackson talked to Peggy Raddatz on Wednesday night. She had no complaint with what Obama said: "The point is that my brother lost his insurance coverage when he was dying."

17 Comments

The President didn't lie; he just didn't tell the whole story. Sometimes half-the-story is as misleading as a lie.

If Obama's reform was dealing directly with denial of pre-existing conditions vs more bureaucracy (public or private; doesn't matter, Insurers will be administering a Gov Plan for sure under contracts) he might find more success in getting a bill through.

Stories like this just cast his credibility into further doubt.

The president won't let details like the truth stand in the way of his personal goals. More than half of the people in the country are begging him to walk away from universal healthcare. He won't listen. A large portion of his own party don't agree with significant portions of the plans floating around. He won't listen. Democrats remember that last time they attempted to cram this down our throats, the Republicans cleaned the house with them during the off year elections. He won't listen. At least one member of the Democratic leadership (Reid) is looking more like a long shot for reelection. The President still won't listen.

Mr. President, please stop beating a dead horse. A majority of this country does not want you to pursue healthcare in the manner you demand. Is your ego too big to listen to the folks writing your pay check?

@Don: "A majority of this country does not want you to pursue healthcare in the manner you demand."

Unfortunately, that's not true anymore. As of this writing, the latest Rasmussen poll shows 51% in favor. ...

Part of me wants this to go through, so that the American people can learn the hard way.

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I agree insurers need to be forced to stop this practice..In fact there are lots of things that can be done to reduce healthcare costs, such as tort reform, insurance competition nationwide, we are the fattest country in the world, accounting for billions in healthcare costs. But the one wrong answer is government healthcare. My sister was diagnosed 11/2006 with cervical cancer, she was 39 years old. Due to approvals required she did not received her first chemo and radiation until March 2007, she was told she would need chemo, radiation and then a hysterectomy when the tumor was shrunk enough, when first diagnosed surgery was not an option as they said it was too large. By June they told her tumor was gone, she was cured. She was told hysterectomy could not be approved now because the tumor was gone. Despite nearly a dozen trips to the ER over the next few months, for dehydration, pain,non-stop vomitting and diarrhea, they would not approve a CT scan untill October, oh shock, the tumor was back and bigger than the original. This time they started the chemo and radiation immediately, but it was too late, the cancer had spread to her lymphnodes, she fought hard, but by May it had spread to her brain and she passed away in June at the age of 40. This is the treatment we will all enjoy with Government healthcare, my sister was on Medicare. Will there be an office that says "Death Panel" outside with the grim reapers sitting inside and a big rubber stamp saying live or die....Well of course not, but let me just say my sister was offered every type of pain killer you can imagine and she was offered euthanasia, which is legal in Oregon where she lived. She had so many pain killers, yet she suffered weeks and weeks of bedridden painful dying, and it wasn't until the last week of her life when a nurse said "i think she may have morphine poisoning" they then cut back on the morphine and she was finally out of the pain and was able to rest peacefully until she died a few days later. I pray that none of you ever have to go through or watch a love one go through that, and I pray, the government never, ever, ever determines my healthcare.

I agree insurers need to be forced to stop this practice..In fact there are lots of things that can be done to reduce healthcare costs, such as tort reform, insurance competition nationwide, we are the fattest country in the world, accounting for billions in healthcare costs. But the one wrong answer is government healthcare. My sister was diagnosed 11/2006 with cervical cancer, she was 39 years old. Due to approvals required she did not received her first chemo and radiation until March 2007, she was told she would need chemo, radiation and then a hysterectomy when the tumor was shrunk enough, when first diagnosed surgery was not an option as they said it was too large. By June they told her tumor was gone, she was cured. She was told hysterectomy could not be approved now because the tumor was gone. Despite nearly a dozen trips to the ER over the next few months, for dehydration, pain,non-stop vomitting and diarrhea, they would not approve a CT scan untill October, oh shock, the tumor was back and bigger than the original. This time they started the chemo and radiation immediately, but it was too late, the cancer had spread to her lymphnodes, she fought hard, but by May it had spread to her brain and she passed away in June at the age of 40. This is the treatment we will all enjoy with Government healthcare, my sister was on Medicare. Will there be an office that says "Death Panel" outside with the grim reapers sitting inside and a big rubber stamp saying live or die....Well of course not, but let me just say my sister was offered every type of pain killer you can imagine and she was offered euthanasia, which is legal in Oregon where she lived. She had so many pain killers, yet she suffered weeks and weeks of bedridden painful dying, and it wasn't until the last week of her life when a nurse said "i think she may have morphine poisoning" they then cut back on the morphine and she was finally out of the pain and was able to rest peacefully until she died a few days later. I pray that none of you ever have to go through or watch a love one go through that, and I pray, the government never, ever, ever determines my healthcare.

...David Axelrod said Obama got "the essence" of the Raddatz story "exactly right,"...

Sara Palin got "the essence" of the Death Panels "exactly right," too.

Whoo Hoo!

Fake but Accurate. The new slogan of the MSM since the "Mistake" was elected President.

Let's face, Obama is a LIAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I mean really journalist, did you ever dream in your college days that YOU would be asked to run cover for such a dismal collection of crackpots, bigots and incompetent liars simply because they have have Democrat beside their names.

You people's integrity sure came CHEAP.

The president's lie was one of omission. Tell as much as one needs to get one's agenda through. It this change one can believe in?

The ability to move from State to State with your own health insurance is important, and has been stopped by the Democrats in filibusters on a number of occasions over the last few years. Obama and his cronies want to point at the Republicans and say they have done nothing, but you can go to the GOP website, or the Congressional website, and see the number of amendments or bills submitted by republicans which were rejected by the democrats. More importantly, the Democrats want to steal, and it is theft, $477 billion from Medicare, by cancelling Medicare Advantage which gives the elderly options, and taking $58 billion from Home Health Care, which will force them to stay longer in the hospitals and drive costs up more. If they leave the hospitals, then they will become burdens on their family or friends, because there will be no Home health care. The Democrats took $20 billion from Home Health Care last year. This is to shift the care of each of our elderly family members onto us. We cannot afford to do it, since we would have to take time from our jobs to take care of our elderly family members. This is the new Obamacare plan for the elderly.

No lie or intentional error of omission on the
part of the President or his speech writers.

If you want to blame someone blame Slate.

Lynn Sweet writes.

"Obama speechwriters, I was told, got their information about Raddatz in a July 27 story in Slate about the health care crisis, which said -- incorrectly -- that a fight over benefits delayed treatment, "eliminated Raddatz's chances of recovery, and he died."

Lynn should complete her investigation and find out how Slate got the story wrong.

After reading the article by Lynn Sweet regarding he misrepresentation of Otto Raddatz, I wrote a letter to Senator Dick Durbin and a copy to Joe Wilson of S. Carolina. I told them I was appalled how President Obama & his staff writers could misrepresent a tragic story about Otto Raddatz. Is it any wonder that President Obama is loosing credibility with the nation.
Nancy Pelosi and congress wants Joe Wilson to apologize to congress after he apologized to President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, which he should have done as he was out of line. I hope she demans that President Obama apologizes to the Nation and me for misrepresenting this tragic story.

"Obama senior adviser David Axelrod said Obama got "the essence" of the Raddatz story 'exactly right,'"

**********************

So, are we fact-checking for "essence" now?

Oops, scratch that. (http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/current_events/healthcare/september_2009/health_care_reform)

There is actually a transcript of his sisters testimony is the Senate oversight committee.

"During their investigation, they located the doctor who ordered the CT scan. He had no
recollection of disclosing the information to my brother or treating him for it.
After two appeals by the Illinois Attorney General's Office, Fortis Insurance Company
overturned their original decision to rescind my brother's coverage and he was reinstated
without any lapse"

So the problem started with the Doctor apparently, not telling the man he had an unrelated condition. The insurance companies of course found the CT scan, and since he had not listed it, his policy was cancelled.

If insurance companies should be called out, Hospitals should as well.

"When I called the hospital to see if I could schedule the stem cell transplant for him I was
callously told "unless your brother brings in cash, he is not going to get the procedure
without insurance."

So when the insurance investigator (state) was investigating they found out that the Doctor had never informed the patient of the tests the insurance company had rescinded the policy over, and that they should reinstate the policy. The insurance company then did reinstate the policy.

He did not miss any treatments, he had them but was scheduled for a transplant.

"Ms. {Raddatz.} He did indeed receive the stem cell transplant. It was extremely successful. It extended his life approximately 3-1/2 years. He did pass away January 6, 2009, and he was about to have a second stem cell transplant. Unfortunately, due to certain situations, his donor became ill at the last minute and so he did pass away on January 6.

The fact is - each state (and this all depends on if your insurance is fully insured or self funded - aka means will it be enforced by state laws or federal [erisa] laws?).... Each state has certain laws regarding (even federal laws have this) pre-existing conditions... along with preauthorization laws, verification of benefit laws, and SO MUCH MORE!!! It has come to a time where companies (including health care providers) are going to have to spend more on reimbursement and hire someone with either MORE EXPERIENCE or A HIGHER EDUCATION regarding payer relations. This is my opinon but your claims analyst will make or break your company. Also it will make or break your pocket book as the provider "SHOULD" appeal on your behalf as a patient but they think you don't have a clue whats going on and therefore bill you whether they can "balance bill" or not - fact is if you don't know you pay and they are excited. Anyway gotta go and take my doggies out.

The letter of the sister's story from Sept 14 was tragic, but if she was 40 years old, she would not have been on Medicare, which is for seniors. So while you are critical of the president and his examples, you should fact-check your own story too. 29% of our population has government insurance now... Medicare, Medicaid and veterans insurance... that doesn't count people who work for governments and have private insurance. Medicare enjoys a high satisfaction rate from members.

For those of you that think we don't need healthcare reform, please ask someone who has no healthcare how they feel. Ask them how they feel when they find out they have innoperable cancer because they had no way to catch it early. Ask them how they feel when their mother or father dies because they can not afford to go to the doctor, or to take the medications that would save their lives or afford the medication that would allow them to be productive and be able to at least do those low paying jobs that you think are good enough for them. Maybe you should ask them about the 45,000 people who die each year because they can not afford medical care, 3 times as many as are killed by drunk drivers. And maybe you need to understand that the care available at an emergency room will not really help, it is only stablizing care. Well since "so many Americans are against reform" because of the cost, and since it only kills the poor and only such a few, maybe we should get rid of the restrictions on drinking and driving. Apparently all of you only care when it affects YOU. Really sad commentary on this greedy country we live in.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on September 13, 2009 9:40 AM.

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