Is Hillary’s Much-Maligned Hospital Story Fundamentally True?

By Saira Anees

Apr 7, 2008 3:14pm

The New York Times had a real attention-grabbing story over the weekend  indicating that Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, had been irritating an Ohio hospital by telling a false story about a poor, pregnant woman denied health care.

“The hospital said, ‘Well, you don’t have insurance,’" Clinton said. "She said, ‘No, I don’t.’ They said, ‘Well, we can’t see you until you give $100.’ She said, ‘Where am I going to get $100?’ The next time she came back to the hospital, she came in an ambulance,” Mrs. Clinton continued. “She was in distress. The doctors and the nurses worked on her and couldn’t save the baby.”

The Times reported that the woman in question was Trina Bachtel.

"Since Ms. Bachtel’s baby died at O’Bleness Memorial Hospital, the story implicitly and inaccurately accuses that hospital of turning her away, said Ms. (Linda) Weiss, the spokeswoman for O’Bleness Memorial said. Instead, the O’Bleness health care system treated her, both at the hospital and at the affiliated River Rose Obstetrics and Gynecology practice, Ms. Weiss said."

Because O’Bleness so harsly assailed the story, it has been treated like the whole story Clinton told was false, and it has fed into a meme — started by her Bosnia sniper tale — of her being less than truthful.

But a closer examination of the story Clinton was originally told indicates that while Clinton erred slightly in relaying the tragic tale, that doesn’t mean it’s not fundamentally true. On that, the jury is still out.

**

Clinton was first told the story of Trina Bachtel by an Ohio sheriff’s deputy, Bryan Holman.

The website NoQuaterUSA today pointed out what Holman’s full story was — and his full story is significant.

On Youtube one can watch the video of Holman telling Clinton the story.

“I’d like to tell you the story of a young woman I know that didn’t have health insurance," he says. "She worked in a little pizza place around here and she was pregnant worked for minimum wage. She went to the hospital. And the hospital told her she needed $100 up front, which she didn’t have of course didn’t make a lot of money . So they had billed her a couple of times for it. And uh, after getting pregnant she went back, like I say, she went back again, they told her she needed $100 she didn’t have . So they refused to see her because she had a bill and stuff and been there before."

Here’s the key: Holman then tells Clinton that Bachtel (whom he doesn’t name) then went to another hospital — and that one would presumably be O’Bleness Memorial.

"So she went to another local hospital," he says. "And they seen her and stopped her labor and told her to come back in two days. Well, before she got back within those two days her baby died. So they life-flighted her to Co – to a hospital in Columbus and within 15 days she died. And they come to find out that they had misdiagnosed what the problem was. And it was a smaller hospital, didn’t have the needs to take care of what she needed at that time."

In other words, the hospital that denied Bachtel the coverage was not O’Bleness Memorial.

The larger point, says Holman to Clinton: "her family and them think that if she’d had good insurance and stuff and she was taken care of at the first hospital of course that had the medical means to take care of her that her and her baby of course would still be here. Its just you know the health insurance thing really needs to be addressed for people who you know work for minimum wage and different things.”

After which Clinton says, "I hear so many stories like that. People without insurance are more likely to be die than people with insurance."

**

The (Ohio) Daily Sentinel  on August 5, 2007, printed an obituary for Trina Bachtel’s stillborn son, Tray Dean Hutton, who was stillborn on August 1, 2007 at O’Bleness Memorial Hospital in Athens, Ohio.

Another Senitenl obit shows that Bachtel herself died at OSU Medical Center in Columbus.

The first question is what was the first hospital Trina Bachtel went to? It wasn’t O’Bleness — but Clinton never said it was. She told the story imprecisely — sloppily, even — but that doesn’t make its general point untrue.

The second question is why was Bachtel denied medical care at that first hospital?

I’m trying to find out more about this story — it’s not always easy when health records are involved, not to mention a grieving family who may already have some issues with the media.

But I will try, and report back to you what I find out.

- jpt

UPDATE: The AP and the Washington Posthave taken a look at this, too. More tomorrow.

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