Checking Mary Lou Retton’s claim she can’t afford health insurance

Mary Lou Retton celebrates after receiving the gold medal for winning the all-around competition at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

Former Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton spoke out last week on NBC’s “Today” show about what she said was a rare pneumonia that almost killed her and resulted in an expensive, monthlong hospital stay.

It was a shocking reveal. One key comment jumped out for people who follow health policy: Retton said she was uninsured, blaming that lack of coverage on 30 orthopedic surgeries that count as “preexisting conditions,” a divorce and her poor finances.

“I just couldn’t afford it,” Retton told host Hoda Kotb, who did not challenge the assertion.

Retton, who after winning the gold medal in 1984 became a well-known figure — “America’s sweetheart,” appearing on Wheaties boxes and claiming a variety of other endorsements — did not provide details of her income, the illness, the hospital where she was treated or the type of insurance she was seeking, so it’s hard to nail down specifics.

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