Times Touts White House's Official Health-Care Victim Two Days Running
For the second day in a row, the Times highlighted a health-care anecdote that Obama wanted highlighted - the sad story of Ohio resident Natoma Canfield, Obama's poster woman for victims of rising health insurance premiums and the emotional focal point of the president's desperation Ohio tour to push his health-care "reform" plan.
Tuesday's piece by White House reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg ("In Ohio, Obama Makes a Working-Class Appeal for Health Care Votes") went melodramatic, a tone that certainly suited Obama's purpose:
In Ohio, Mr. Obama made a classic effort to put a human face on an intractable problem, telling the story of Natoma Canfield, the cleaning woman. The drama could not have been more suited to his purposes had he scripted it.
Ms. Canfield, of nearby Medina, wrote to the president in December to say that she had been treated for cancer 16 years ago and had been cancer-free for 11 years. But, faced with a 40 percent rate increase after paying more than $6,700 in premiums last year, she said she had to drop her coverage. Mr. Obama read the letter to insurance executives this month, and hoped Ms. Canfield would introduce him here.
Instead, Mr. Obama told the audience that Ms. Canfield had collapsed last week and was taken to the hospital. She learned Saturday that she has leukemia.
"The reason Natoma is not here today is that she's lying in a hospital bed, suddenly faced with this emergency - suddenly faced with a fight for her life," Mr. Obama told the crowd. "She expects to face more than a month of aggressive chemotherapy. And she is racked with worry not only about her illness but about the cost of the tests and treatments she's surely going to need."
The crowd grew quiet, and Mr. Obama added, "So you want to know why I'm here, Ohio? I'm here because of Natoma."
Ms. Canfield, of course, was hardly the only reason Mr. Obama visited Ohio. He wanted to visit older Americans at the recreation center to address Republican criticisms that his bill would make dangerous cuts in Medicare - a claim Mr. Obama called false and insidious. And he is trying to sway reluctant Democrats.
A Monday piece by David Herszenhorn, "A National Measure, Inextricably Enmeshed With Local Interests," which initially appeared on the paper's Prescriptions blog, relayed Cantone's illness and hospitalization as well, in less emotional terms.
White House aides said the vote count in Congress was only part of their thinking in traveling to Ohio. An even bigger factor, they said, was a letter Mr. Obama received from Natoma A. Canfield, a cleaning woman from Medina, Ohio, about how she could no longer afford health insurance.
Mr. Obama read the letter aloud to insurance executives at a meeting at the White House this month.
In the letter, Ms. Canfield, a cancer survivor, described how she had paid $6,705.24 in premiums in 2009, plus out-of-pocket costs, while her insurance company paid out only $935.32 in benefits. And yet, her premiums were increased by more than 40 percent for 2010, prompting her to drop her policy.
"I simply can no longer afford to pay for my health care costs," she wrote.
The White House had asked her to introduce Mr. Obama at Monday's event but she was recently hospitalized with a new diagnosis of leukemia.
Follow Times Watch on Twitter.