It takes a big man to admit he’s wrong, but as a columnist for one of the nation’s top newspapers, Paul Krugman shouldn’t have been wrong in the first place.
Krugman’s April 11 New York Times column reused a story about an Ohio woman named Trina Bachtel, whom liberal Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton used in a speech promoting her candidacy for president.
“Not long ago, a young Ohio woman named Trina Bachtel, who was having health problems while pregnant, tried to get help at a local clinic,” Krugman wrote. “Unfortunately, she had previously sought care at the same clinic while uninsured and had a large unpaid balance. The clinic wouldn’t see her again unless she paid $100 per visit – which she didn’t have. Eventually, she sought care at a hospital 30 miles away. By then, however, it was too late. Both she and the baby died.”
That’s not quite how it happened, however. And what’s even more troubling about Krugman’s April 11 column is that The New York Times, Krugman’s own paper, reported the flaws of the story on April 5.
According to the Times story by Deborah Sontag, administrators at the O’Bleness Memorial Hospital in Athens, Ohio, said “Bachtel was under the care of an obstetrics practice affiliated with the hospital, that she was never refused treatment and that she was, in fact, insured.”
“‘We implore the Clinton campaign to immediately desist from repeating this story,’ said Rick Castrop, chief executive officer of the O’Bleness Health System,” according to the Times article.
Krugman admitted to the error April 14 on the Times’s blog:
“It has been clear from early in this controversy, including from Times reporting, that Bachtel was insured at the time of her death. Some people read my column to say otherwise. That was not my intended implication, although I obviously didn’t write clearly enough.
Her family asserted, however, that she had been unable to receive care from a local clinic, even though insured at the time of her pregnancy, because of unpaid bills from an earlier period in her life when she had been uninsured. It was in that sense that lack of insurance allegedly contributed to her death, the assertion I made at the end of the column.”
“I should, in retrospect, have worried about some lack of detail in that report,” Krugman wrote. “The Columbus Dispatch reports that the debts in question had been written off as uncollectable long before her pregnancy, so that it does not appear that they were a barrier to care.”