Mary Lou Retton got $2 million in divorce but couldn’t ‘afford’ insurance?

A report this week is likely to add to questions about Mary Lou Retton’s claim that she couldn’t “afford” health insurance — a situation that prompted her daughters to launch an online fundraising campaign that netted more than $459,000 and was supposed to cover the costs of her monthlong hospital […]

A report this week is likely to add to questions about Mary Lou Retton’s claim that she couldn’t “afford” health insurance — a situation that prompted her daughters to launch an online fundraising campaign that netted more than $459,000 and was supposed to cover the costs of her monthlong hospital stay for a rare and potentially deadly form of pneumonia.

The Daily Mail obtained court records, which show that the decorated Olympic gymnast received $2 million in her 2018 divorce settlement and was poised to potentially earn $2 million more in compensation over a legal dispute with the manufacturer of her two metal hip replacements.

In early January, Retton spoke out on the “Today” show about her hospitalization, dramatically describing how she almost didn’t survive this terrifying medical crisis. Wearing an oxygen tube, the woman once dubbed “America’s sweetheart” detailed the moment in the intensive care unit when “they were about to put me on life support.”

When Retton’s daughters first revealed her medical crisis in October, they said that their 55-year-old mother was in the hospital with a “very rare form of pneumonia” and “fighting for her life.” Her daughter, McKenna Kelley, also said that the 1984 Olympics gold medalist didn’t have health insurance but wouldn’t say anything more, “out of respect for her and her privacy.”

The fundraiser initially set a goal for $50,000 but raised nearly 10 times that. More than 8,000 people donated, including Texas philanthropist and multimillionaire Linda Mcingvale, who alone sent in $50,000. Many people were shocked by the idea that an American sports legend, who presumably earned millions in endorsement deals over a decades-long career, didn’t heave health insurance and needed to ask fans for help.

During Retton’s “Today” interview, she told Hoda Kotb that insurance was simply too expensive for her, as a recently divorced woman with pre-existing health conditions.

“When COVID hit and after my divorce and all my pre-existing (conditions) — I mean, I’ve had over 30 operations of orthopedic stuff — I couldn’t afford it… That’s the bottom line: I couldn’t afford it,” Retton told Kotb.

“But who would even know that this was going to happen to me?” Retton exclaimed before confirming that she now has health insurance: “I’m all set now.”

In an interview with USA Today, Kelley repeated her mother’s contention that she couldn’t afford insurance before her health care crisis, because of her surgeries, which Kelley said included four hip replacements that have left her mother in chronic pain.

“Due to her medical history and the amount of surgeries she has endured from gymnastics and just life, it’s unaffordable for her,” Kelley said.

But following Retton’s “Today” interview, journalists raised a number of questions. They also said  that Retton and her daughters did not respond to questions about her medical care and financial situation, including her income, which Texas hospital treated her and what happened to the $459,000 in online donations.

“Retton’s unwillingness to answer the most basic questions about her health care is receiving increased scrutiny for one simple reason: the decision by McKenna Kelley and her three sisters to seek public donations for their mother on the crowdsourcing site spotfund.com,” wrote USA Today columnist Christine Brennan. “Had they not done that, Retton’s illness likely would have remained a private matter, never bursting into public view and enticing so many strangers to send money.”

Retton’s explanation about pre-existing conditions and insurance costs definitely sparked “some mental gymnastics,” according to a report by KFF Health News, which was published by National Public Radio.

KFF Health News senior correspondent Julie Appleby agreed that Retton’s lack of health insurance was “shocking.” But she also raised questions about Retton’s two main reasons for not buying coverage — pre-existing conditions and cost.

Appleby said that Retton could have purchased insurance through Obamacare. Under the Affordable Care Act, which has offered coverage through state and federal marketplaces since 2014, insurers are barred from rejecting people with pre-existing conditions and cannot charge higher premiums for them, either, Appleby reported. “This is one of the law’s most popular provisions, according to opinion surveys,” Appleby said.

Appleby also reported that for people with higher incomes, premium costs are capped at 8.5% of household income.

According to the Daily Mail report, court documents filed in Houston show that Retton had “a small fortune” following her divorce from real estate developer Shannon Kelley, who once played quarterback for the Texas Longhorns.

Under the property division accepted by the court, Retton received cash and property worth $1,950,597, as she and Kelley split their assets down the middle after 28 years of marriage.

Not included in that figure were the proceeds from the sale of two houses, one in Houston and the other in Fairmont, West Virginia. Proceeds from the home sales were supposed to be split 50/50. The Daily Mail reported that the Houston home was sold for $800,000, while the West Virginia property — described as a “country home” — sold for $575,000.

The Daily Mail also reported that Retton was expected to receive additional funds from a lawsuit in which she sued Biomet, an Indiana-based medical company, over two hip replacements that went wrong.

Retton was fitted with metal hip replacements in 2005 and 2011. She was then paid an undisclosed sum to participate in a marketing campaign to promote the products from 2006 and 2013, the Daily Mail reported.

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