Barack Obama tried getting some sales mileage for his ObamaCare bill by using the story of Natoma, an Ohio woman battling cancer. Unfortunately, Obama oversold the story by attempting to make the insurers and providers the bad guys in the story, in part by getting key facts wrong, and in part by getting the math wrong. Let’s start with the math:

She did everything she could to maintain her health insurance that would be there just in case she got sick, because she figured, I didn’t want to be — she didn’t want to be in a position where, if she did get sick, somebody else would have to pick up the tab; that she’d have to go to the emergency room; that the cost would be shifted onto folks through their higher insurance premiums or hospitals charging higher rates. So she tried to do the right thing.
And she upped her deductible last year to the minimum [sic], the highest possible deductible. But despite that, Natoma’s insurance company raised her premiums by more than 25 percent. And over the past year, she paid more than $6,000 in monthly premiums.


THE PRESIDENT: She paid more than $4,000 in out-of-pocket medical costs, for co-pays and medical care and prescriptions. So all together, this woman paid $10,000 — one year. But because she never hit her deductible, her insurance company only spent $900 on her care. So the insurance company is making — getting $10,000; paying out $900.  Now, what comes in the mail at the end of last year?



THE PRESIDENT: It’s a letter telling Natoma that her premiums would go up again by more than 40 percent.

Was she paying $6,000 a month, or six thousand a year? That makes a pretty big difference.  Obama left the impression that Natoma was paying six thousand dollars in monthly premiums, instead of five hundred dollars a month.   That cost isn’t exactly out of the norm.  In Maine, for instance, the average premium is over $760 per month, which is a bit less than what Natoma’s insurance company wanted to charge her for continuing her insurance after she got sick.  Obama said she was paying six grand a month, which the audience rightly booed, but that would make $76,000 in a year with the deductible, not $10,000. And the reason Maine’s premiums are so expensive?  They imposed mandates on insurers and created a public option (DirigoChoice) that rapidly increased costs to all Maine residents.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, it turns out that Natoma isn’t actually in danger of losing her house either, as Andrew Malcolm explains:

In January, the president said, the woman gave up her health insurance because the premiums had grown too large. And she was filled with worry over the financial burden on her family, especially losing her house.

We have the full presidential passage below about Natoma, whom Obama credited as the reason for his trip to the politically vital state of Ohio, not notoriously high unemployment. “I’m here because of Natoma,” Obama said.

This morning, interim good news. Judson Berger and Marla Chichowski of Fox News checked into the story of Natoma, who is undergoing treatment at the famous Cleveland Clinic. A spokeswoman there said the woman was virtually certain to qualify for aid and, anyway, the clinic has no intention of placing any liens on her home for the expensive care she is now receiving free.

So Natoma is getting treatment, which will be covered by existing programs, and she’s not going to lose her home.  Since Natoma appears to be covered — why do we need to dismantle a system that works for 87% of the rest of the country, too?

Bonus Obamateurism: As one commenter points out below, the insurance company didn’t get $10,000; they got $6,000.  Natoma paid the other $4,000 to her health-care providers.  Deductibles don’t get paid to the insurance company.

Got an Obamateurism of the Day? If you see a foul-up by Barack Obama, e-mail it to me at [email protected] with the quote and the link to the Obamateurism. I’ll post the best Obamateurisms on a daily basis, depending on how many I receive. Include a link to your blog, and I’ll give some link love as well. And unlike Slate, I promise to end the feature when Barack Obama leaves office.

Illustrations by Chris Muir of Day by Day. Be sure to read the adventures of Sam, Zed, Damon, and Jan every day!