November 19th, 2013
01:14 AM ET
9 months ago

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

Updated 1:20 a.m. ET, 11/19/2013This is updated from an earlier version, adding more details.

(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 (90 Responses)
  1. SmartGuy

    WOW!!! Where are you going to keep your face................

    November 19, 2013 01:34 am at 1:34 am |
  2. MsPhattie

    Of course she would not blame the White House or this administration. Despite all empirical evidence, it is people like this that will follow Obama off a cliff and at the bottom still smile and praise him as they drown in the river below.

    November 19, 2013 02:23 am at 2:23 am |
  3. Jetranger

    You can KEEP your insurance – NO – what I said was, I don't know what I said but this is the way it is – I think, maybe .

    November 19, 2013 02:33 am at 2:33 am |
  4. Dr_Dr_Please

    One example of millions more stories like this to come. What a travesty against the citizens of this country.

    November 19, 2013 02:57 am at 2:57 am |
  5. SixDegrees

    Jesus Christ, what a cluster.

    Wait 'til the IRS starts sending out incorrect confiscations of tax returns.

    November 19, 2013 03:40 am at 3:40 am |
  6. Paul Song

    Every person I know (including myself) that had health insurance on their own (not through an employer) has had premiums go up by AT LEAST 50%. I'm glad it's working so well for some people. I just don't know who those "some people" are.

    November 19, 2013 03:49 am at 3:49 am |
  7. AndyM

    I guess you shouldn't have had a child you can't afford? Common sense huh? I guess not. Thank you for making the rest of us pay for your mistake.

    November 19, 2013 04:05 am at 4:05 am |
  8. Reasonable Guy

    Quite spinning this as a hiccup in the healthcare roll out. Her expensive premiums were not a flaw–this is how the ACA was meant to work. Near free healthcare for the poor funded by a flat tax that harms the middle-class.

    The American middle-class is finally paying a price for being an uninformed and lazy electorate. Lets see if they learn...

    November 19, 2013 04:12 am at 4:12 am |
  9. John

    I assume she voted for Obama (probably twice) and in the end got EXACTLY what she voted for. Good luck

    November 19, 2013 04:23 am at 4:23 am |
  10. Kimo

    this is what happens when we don't read the bill to understand what's in it before we vote on it. And, in what fantasy land does anyone think that government can provide health care more efficiently and cheaper than the private sector?

    November 19, 2013 04:40 am at 4:40 am |
  11. Logictox

    Another success story about ACA. Not only can she not afford the insurance the first year she pays $95, after that the sky is the limit. She will either buy insurance she can't afford or pay as much as 3.8% of her income in the near future as a fine. There is nothing affordable about the ACA.

    November 19, 2013 04:51 am at 4:51 am |
  12. Sundara0000

    Take this story and times it by everyone except the ones actually getting free healthcare and you have the whole of the ACA. ///welcome to Obama's shining moment.

    November 19, 2013 05:04 am at 5:04 am |
  13. Cliff Robeson

    Obama is a horrible liar. I voted for him but I thought something was wrong when he said he never heard Rev. Wright's highly racist remarks and he was there almost every Sunday for so long. I wanted Obamacare to be real to help those without insurance and to protect those who already had serious diseases but all he did was lie. What a hugh disappointment.

    November 19, 2013 05:05 am at 5:05 am |
  14. maybeitsme

    I'm sorry for your trouble but you cannot add 30 million people to the insured ranks....add tons of 'Free' coverage....expand provider types....treatments...etc....and expect that it will reduce the cost of insurance. Anyone who feel for that really wasn't paying attention. This is and was a sham..... And people are FINALLY waking up to this mess.

    November 19, 2013 05:17 am at 5:17 am |
  15. Scott

    Ah...you will know what is in the bill once you pass it.......will never forget those words

    November 19, 2013 05:39 am at 5:39 am |
  16. Rob

    Bet you won't hear Obama making a speech or bragging about this one. When he can't brag about something, he'll lie as usual

    November 19, 2013 05:47 am at 5:47 am |
  17. eddhur

    i think the hole thing is a mess

    November 19, 2013 05:53 am at 5:53 am |
  18. Nicole

    The tax credits go up to 400% of the poverty level or 9.5% of income- for a family of two that's 62,040. For $390 to be 9.5% of income (I'll round to 10 just for simplicity sake- so underestimating) is an income of $46,800.

    Yeah. That isn't the income level the subsidies were intended for, and at that income you SHOULD get insurance, because that's the responsible thing to do. I won't say it'll be easy- if you're living at a paycheck to paycheck budget, you'll have to find the money, but it should be there. Otherwise the rest of us will be picking up the tab when you get sick and can't pay.

    November 19, 2013 05:55 am at 5:55 am |
  19. dinmi

    Sorry for your situation but guess what? You should have done the math. The non-utopian real world has realized that this whole debacle isn't going to work and that there is NO affordable in the ACA. First lesson in real world – don't rely on someone to provide for you because you will end up at their mercy. Now that you have to pay a higher premium to cover those below you that receive s subsidy you don't like it. Well guess what join the rest of us – we don't like it either but Obama (you know the person you voted for twice!) is bent on bending over just about everyone. Put on your big girl pants and sign we need you to be part of this to help further defray the costs. Welcome to the epic failure that you voted for.

    November 19, 2013 05:57 am at 5:57 am |
  20. hkirwin

    Everyone is happy when they think they are getting something for free. They don't care how its paid for just as long as it is paid for by someone other then them. See how quickly the table turns when reality sets in.

    November 19, 2013 06:26 am at 6:26 am |
  21. Anonymous

    One story of billions to come

    November 19, 2013 06:27 am at 6:27 am |
  22. JT

    Pretty sad when this is your "success" story.

    November 19, 2013 06:28 am at 6:28 am |
  23. Steve

    "I'm already looking into this with our client specialist team. I'll let you know what I hear."..... cue sounds of crickets.....

    November 19, 2013 06:38 am at 6:38 am |
  24. Thomas Nichols

    Bait and Switch, Bait and Switch!

    November 19, 2013 06:44 am at 6:44 am |
  25. Nick

    Another Obama "success". Between this, lies about the 80 million people would lose their coverage per DOJ lawyers and the Federal register, the IRS targeting with no one held accountable, a lack of all accountability for the President during Benghazi, and breaking news that they manipulated the unemployment numbers right before the election, you can see Chicago politics have really come home to roost. "Violation of his oath of office" doesn't even begin to cover the crimes this President has committed against the people.

    November 19, 2013 06:49 am at 6:49 am |
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