November 18th, 2013
10:35 PM ET
1 year ago

Woman cited by President as Obamacare success story frustrated by sign up process

Updated 1:20 a.m. ET, 11/19/2013 – This story has been updated. For the latest version, click here.

(CNN) – Washington state resident Jessica Sanford was bursting with pride when President Obama mentioned her story during a Rose Garden event on health care reform last month at the White House.

"Who wouldn't?" Sanford asks. "I'm a nobody really to have him mention my story."

Back in October, Sanford had written a letter to the White House to share her good news. The 48-year-old single mother of a teenage son diagnosed with ADHD had just purchased what she considered to be affordable insurance on the Washington state exchange.

"I was ecstatic. I couldn't wait to call the doctor for an appointment on January 2nd," Sanford told CNN about the feeling she had when she first enrolled.

Her heartfelt letter made it to the President's hands and then into his October 21 speech.

"'I was crying the other day when I signed up. So much stress lifted.'" Obama said, reading from Sanford's letter.

The president said Sanford's story was proof, despite the technical problems with the healthcare.gov website, that the Affordable Care Act was working.

"That's what the Affordable Care Act is all about. The point is, the essence of the law – the health insurance that's available to people – is working just fine," Obama said.

But then, after Obama mentioned her story, Sanford started having problems. Sanford said she received another letter informing her the Washington state health exchange had miscalculated her eligibility for a tax credit.

In other words, her monthly insurance bill had shot up from $198 a month (she had initially said $169 a month to the White House but she switched plans) to $280 a month for the same "gold" plan offered by the state exchange.

Sanford said she was frustrated with the state's error. But she decided to purchase the new plan and thought everything was fine.

It wasn't fine. Last week, Sanford received another letter from the Washington state exchange, stating there had been another problem, a "system error" that resulted in some "applicants to qualify for higher than allowed health insurance premium tax credits."

The letter said the state exchange was "disappointed to have discovered this issue" and apologized.

The result was a higher quote, which Sanford said was for $390 per month for a "silver" plan with a higher deductible. Still too expensive

A cheaper "bronze" plan, Sanford said, came in at $324 per month, but also with a high deductible – also not in her budget.

Then another letter from the state exchange with even worse news.

"Your household has been determined eligible for a Federal Tax Credit of $0.00 to help cover the cost of your monthly health insurance premium payments," the latest letter said.

"I had a good cry," Sanford said about her reaction to the latest news from the state.

As a self-employed court reporter, the new quote was simply out of her range.

"This is it. I'm not getting insurance," Sanford told CNN. "That's where it stands right now unless they fix it."

Sanford, an Obama supporter who voted for the president twice, is careful to say she blames the state of Washington's online marketplace for the mixed signals and not the White House.

She is sorry Obama mentioned her during the October 21 speech.

"I feel awful about it. I support (the Affordable Care Act)," Sanford said.

But the messy rollout in the other Washington, the nation's capital, was not far from her mind.

"What the hell? Why is it the same story as the federal government?" Sanford says in disgust with the Washington state exchange. "They didn't have it ready."

"They screwed up," she added.

Sanford reiterated her frustration in a post to the Washington HealthPlanFinder's Facebook page last Friday.

"Wow. You guys really screwed me over," Sanford wrote. "Now I have been priced out and will not be able to afford the plans you offer. But, I get to pay $95 and up for not having health insurance. I am so incredibly disappointed and saddened. You majorly screwed up."

In response, a HealthplanFinder posting tried to direct Sanford to a broker for help.

"Jessica, we are very sad and disappointed that the tax credit miscalculation affected you so heavily," the comment read, suggesting she try to find a new plan on the site. Sanford responded on Facebook the issue was affordability.

Bethany Frey, a spokeswoman for Washington HealthPlanFinder told CNN on Monday night, "I'm already looking into this with our client specialist team. I'll let you know what I hear."


Filed under: Healthcare • President Obama
soundoff (One Response)
  1. Logictox

    People are going to come to the harsh realization there is nothing affordable about Obamacare! Anytime you have elected officials that feel you have to pass a bill to see what's in it, you know your in trouble. Get ready America, when the employee mandates kick in is when the real pain will start.

    November 18, 2013 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |