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Conservative pundits take issue with health care poster child Marcelas Owens

Post by John Henrikson / The News Tribune on March 18, 2010 at 4:24 pm with 13 Comments »
March 18, 2010 4:51 pm

Marcelas Owens visits with Patty Murray on a recent D.C. visit.
From Les Blumenthal in D.C.

WASHINGTON – Conservative talk show hosts and columnists are taking issue with an 11-year-old Seattle boy’s account of his mother’s death as a “sob story” exploited by the White House and congressional Democrats like a “kiddie shield” to defend their health care legislation.

Marcelas Owens, whose mother got sick, lost her job, lost her health insurance and died, said Thursday he’s taking the swipes from Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Michelle Malkin in stride.

“My mother always taught me they can have their own opinion but that doesn’t mean they are right,” Owens, who lives in Seattle, said in an interview.

Owens’ grandmother, Gina, who watched her daughter die, isn’t quite so generous.

“These are adults, and he is an 11-year-old boy who lost his mother,” Gina Owens said. “They should be ashamed.”

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., told Marcelas Owens’ story to President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden at the White House health care summit earlier this month. Murray also has spoken about it on the Senate floor. Last week, Owens was in the nation’s capital to speak at a health care rally and to meet with Senate Democratic leadership.

Limbaugh, Beck and Malkin are skeptical about the story, saying there were other forms of medical help available after Owens’ mother, Tifanny, lost her health insurance. They lambasted Democrats for using the story.

“Now this is unseemly, exploitative, an 11-year-old boy being forced to tell his story all over just to benefit the Democrat Party and Barack Obama,” Limbaugh said on March 12, according to a transcript his show. “And, I would say this to Marcelas Owens: ’Well, your mom would still have died, because Obamacare doesn’t kick in until 2014.’”

Beck, according to a transcript of his March 15 show, pointed out that Owens’ recent trip to Washington was paid for by Healthcare of America, a group that has been lobbying for a health care overhaul.

“That’s the George Soros-funded Obama-approved group fighting for health care,” Beck said. “Since all of the groups are so concerned and involved now, may I ask where were you when Marcelas’ mother was vomiting blood?”

Beck, who’s from Mount Vernon, said there were plenty of programs in Washington state that could have helped Tifanny Owens.

Malkin dismissed Marcelas Owens as “one of Obama’s youngest lobbyists” who has been “goaded by a left-wing activist grandmother,” promoted by Murray and has become a regular on the “pro-Obamacare circuit.”

Malkin also suggested there were other programs that could have helped Tifanny Owens, adding, “It’s not clear that additional doctors’ visits in the subsequent months would have prevented her death.”

Tifanny Owens died in June 2007 of pulmonary hypertension, which is described as high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs that can lead to heart failure. The disease is considered rare. While there’s no cure, it can be treated.

The treatments can cost as much as $100,000 a year and must be “consistent and constant,” said Katie Kroner, the director of advocacy and awareness for the Pulmonary Hypertension Association.

“It’s extremely important to have health coverage,” she said.

Owens was an assistant manager at a fast food restaurant when she fell ill in September 2006. As she became sicker, she missed work and was eventually fired, leaving her without health insurance. She was treated twice in an emergency room and died at age 27 after a week of unconsciousness. Gina Owens has custody of Marcelas and his two younger sisters.

Gina Owens said her daughter didn’t qualify for Medicaid. State officials said that without knowing the details, it was impossible to speculate on whether Tifanny Owens would have qualified.

Tifanny Owens might have been eligible for Washington state’s basic health care plan, which is aimed at the working poor. The plan has had a long waiting list for some time, said Sharon Michael of the Washington state Health Care Authority.

“Right now, we have 100,000 people on the wait list,” Michael said.

Limbaugh has gone after young people before. In 2007, he told listeners that Democrats were exploiting an 18-year-old Yup’ik Eskimo and that her congressional testimony of global warming made him want to “puke.”
Murray said she was appalled at how vicious the health care debate has become.

“The mom in me is getting really mad,” she said. “You don’t tear apart an 11-year-old because his mom died.”
Marcelas Owens said he’ll never know if his mother might have lived if she had health insurance.

“At least if she had it she would’ve had a fighting chance,” he said.

Leave a comment Comments → 13
  1. jmhoward says:

    Saw the story on news at lunch…my first question was why is an 11 year old a credible spokesman (along the lines of senators and a president) for the healthcare reform? The answer is very obvious. He has a sob story that fits the needs of the left, single mom (where’s the dad), minority, someone dies. Why not blast Patty for actually USING the kid. If she is so worried about Life, why is federally funded abortion part of the plan. Just another example of the paper using bias to report a story.

  2. Why is Patty exploiting kids for political purposes? Why has Patty not explained why Medicaid had not worked for this kid’s family within Washington State? Sounds like another failed Washington State health care delivery program.

  3. spotted1 says:

    What life experience does this 11 year old have other than watching his mother pass away? This is truly a tragedy. The mother passed away because no one would help her. The boy has lost his mother. The boy is being used by the government. And people are mad at other people for pointing out what is wrong with this situation…just plain dumb…

  4. I think that exploiting this child is sickening! I have read many stories about this woman and there is too much, as is usually the case, that we aren’t being told. What I can say, without doubt, is that if this woman sought treatment for pulmonary hypertension she would have gotten it…and she could have gotten the best, regardless of her ability to pay. I am a critical care nurse and I see many people without the ability to pay each and every day. They get the meds and the treatment they need. I have NEVER seen someone denied care because they don’t have insurance or an income.

  5. Pat_riot says:

    Well, someone has to tell the truth of what a travesty this is.. that a little boy can be used in such a disgusting way.. to help rouse support for a bill that is a travesty to everything it means to be American.. as if passing this bill means no one will ever have a health problem again.. You should be ashamed Murrey, you’re as disgusting as your little show you’ve put with this boy.

    And who better than Limbaugh and Beck, keep on fighting the good fight guys!

  6. The real poster child is none other than the man-child Obambam.

  7. patty murray…..she looks like the waitress serving breakfast in a truck stop.

    A blatant opportunist. National healthcare will be a complete disaster.

    There’s even an institute for pulmonary hypertension….a rare disease. Where were they when this woman was dying?

  8. enotrams says:

    Of course Limbaugh and Beck have gold plated private health insurance. The real travesty is that these jerks don’t care about anyone but themselves.

  9. enotrams says:

    Apparently Limbaugh’s insurance provider pays for eleven oxycotin precriptions per month.

  10. derekyoung says:

    Regardless of what adults think about the issue, one thing is clear… this is a sharp kid and is pretty mature about a situation that is turning a lot of older people into juveniles. Especially considering the loss of his mother.

    I hope everyone remembers there’s a real child in the middle of this.

  11. Copper2Steel says:

    I seem to remember hearing that this child took the initiative to be involved. So, why wouldn’t his local Senator want to help him share his very relevant story? He’s a young activist in the making.

    I agree with derekyoung.

  12. klthompson says:

    Murray will be gone soon enough! 2012 will solve a lot of current problems.

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