Remember that "tall tale" the Clintons were telling about Trina Bachtel, an expectant mother in Ohio who reportedly died because she didn't have $100 to pay for medical care? Turns out the tale wasn't as tall as it appeared.
In the version Bill and Hillary Clinton had been telling on the campaign trail, Bachtel was uninsured and unable to get prenatal care, and was turned away from a hospital because she couldn't put up $100 the hospital demanded before treating her. Subsequently, she and her baby both died.
The hospital denied Bachtel had been turned away and demanded the Clintons stop repeating the story, which they did. But that didn't stop the media, Republicans and many Barack Obama supporters from piling on and calling the Clintons liars.
However, the case isn't quite so black-and-white. As The Associated Press reported on Tuesday, "Recent accounts of the episode have omitted key details that suggest there was more truth in the essence of Clinton's tale than her critics, and even her presidential campaign, have acknowledged."
The AP spoke with Bachtel's aunt, Susie Casto, who said Bachtel did have health insurance when she and her baby died. But at an earlier time when Bachtel didn't have health insurance she ran up unpaid bills at a clinic near her home. "When she returned for treatment when pregnant," The AP reported, "the clinic demanded $100 per visit to help retire the outstanding debt, Casto said. Because Bachtel could not afford the fees and found it difficult to travel, her aunt said, she postponed receiving treatment."
Bachtel eventually went to O'Bleness Memorial Hospital in a town about 30 miles away, where she died last August.
The Ohio deputy sheriff who initially told Hillary Clinton the story also told The AP she had repeated it accurately as he had given it to her.
In his New York Times column today, economist Paul Krugman argues that not only is the Clinton story true in its essentials, but it also illustrates the disgraceful state of health care in the United States.
Krugman writes that "while it's true that hospitals will treat anyone who arrives in an emergency room with an acute problem - and it's wonderful that they will - it's also true that hospitals bill patients for emergency-room treatment. And fear of those bills often causes uninsured Americans to hesitate before seeking medical help, even in emergencies. ...
"The end result is that the uninsured receive a lot less care than the insured. And sometimes this lack of care kills them. According to a recent estimate by the Urban Institute, the lack of health insurance leads to 27,000 preventable deaths in America each year."
Stories like Trina Bachtel's, Krugman goes on, "are common in America, but don't happen in any other rich country - because every other advanced nation has some form of universal health insurance. We should, too."
The flap over the Clintons' "lie" also illustrates how eagerness to be first with the news often leads the conventional media, as well as bloggers, to pick up and run with a story without fully checking it out. The EYE was guilty of doing that in this case. We apologize.