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Clinton Told True Tale of Woe, Says Kin

By Anne E. Kornblut
The aunt of a young pregnant woman who died after a hospital told her she needed to pay $100 up front for care said in an interview on Monday that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has been telling the story accurately on the campaign trail -- following claims by a different Ohio hospital that it did not turn the patient away.

For weeks, Clinton repeated an anecdote she heard in Ohio on Feb. 28 involving a young woman who lost her baby and later died because she lacked health insurance and did not have $100 to gain access to a nearby hospital.

But over the weekend, Clinton came under fire when officials at O'Bleness Memorial Hospital, after reading about her remarks, demanded that she stop recounting it because the patient, Trina Bechtel, was admitted there and did have insurance.

That part, it turns out, is true. But so is Clinton's claim that Bechtel did not get care at another hospital that wanted a $100 pre-payment before seeing her, according to the young woman's aunt, Lisa Casto. "It's a true story," said Casto, 53.

Casto added some details that were not part -- or differed from -- the Clinton anecdote: She said her niece had previously been in debt to a local hospital that later sent her a letter informing her that she could only be treated there in the future if she gave them a $100 deposit. At the time she went into debt to that hospital, Casto said, Bechtel was uninsured, though she later obtained health insurance and was insured at the time of her death.

Casto said she did not want to give the name of the offending hospital because the flood of calls over the incident has overwhelmed her and Meigs County deputy sheriff Bryan Holman, a friend of hers who retold the story to Clinton when she campaigned in southern Ohio.

But court records show that Bechtel had a civil judgment against her by the Holzer Hospital Foundation for the amount of $4,426, entered in 2002, which was repaid in 2005. A call to an official at Holzer Medical Center, which is run by the foundation, in Ohio was not immediately returned.

Casto said her niece, who suffered from preeclampsia during her pregnancy, did not seek care at the first hospital when she fell ill because she knew she did not have the $100 out-of-pocket she believed she would need to be seen. Instead, she went to O'Bleness Memorial Hospital, where her baby was stillborn. Bechtel was later flown to Columbus and died there. She was 35.

Casto said she has been stunned by the amount of negative attention her niece's story generated, and that she was sorry it had hurt the Clinton campaign. She was, and is, she said, a supporter. "Did I vote for Hillary?" she said. "You'd better bet I did."

By Web Politics Editor  |  April 7, 2008; 7:13 PM ET
Categories:  B_Blog , Hillary Rodham Clinton  
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