Obama Story Turns Out to Be (Partially) False

Patient was dropped by insurer, but fought back, and got treatment
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 17, 2009 8:59 AM CDT
President Barack Obama speaks to a joint session of Congress on health care at the US Capitol in Washington, on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2009.   (AP Photo/Jason Reed, pool)

(Newser) – One of the most poignant passages from Barack Obama's recent address to Congress concerned an Illinois cancer patient who died, the president said, because his insurer dropped him after discovering an unreported gallstone. In fact, reports the Wall Street Journal, Otto Raddatz did have his coverage rescinded in 2005—but with the help of the Illinois attorney general, his family got it reinstated within three weeks, and he obtained the critical stem-cell transplant he needed. Raddatz died this year, four years after the showdown.

Raddatz's sister testified before Congress this spring, saying that he eventually did receive treatment. The error in Obama's speech may derive from a report by Slate writer Timothy Noah, who incorrectly wrote that "The delay in treatment eliminated Raddatz's chances of recovery, and he died." Rep. Jan Schakowsky, who serves on the subcommittee that investigated the case, said the president's aides should have been more careful but added: "To focus on that is kind of a 'gotcha.'"