November 19th, 2013
01:14 AM ET
1 year ago

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

Updated 1:20 a.m. ET, 11/19/2013This 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. foologic

    Congratulations Mr. Prez (Bozo in Chief). Your grand plan has another success story. Let's hear your public update on this woman; it should be a doozy. Thank God you will be gone soon; unfortunately you'll be living off the public trough forever – and avoiding Obamination Care ... you liar, you loser..

    November 19, 2013 06:55 am at 6:55 am |
  2. davelja1

    Whether it is the state or the federal government, there is little in life that the government will not complicate and ultimately screw up. Our premiums have increased 530%.

    November 19, 2013 06:58 am at 6:58 am |
  3. Ouch That Hurt

    Ann Romney said it best "Obama either didn't tell the truth or is grossly incompetent"

    November 19, 2013 06:58 am at 6:58 am |
  4. Montello

    I believe in the used car business they call this "bait and switch". To compare our politicians to used car salesmen is an insult to the automotive business, though.

    November 19, 2013 07:07 am at 7:07 am |
  5. al

    The Obama administration was warned in March about potential risks associated with the implementation of HealthCare.gov. These crooks need to be tried for treason!!!!

    November 19, 2013 07:13 am at 7:13 am |
  6. Name jk. Sfl. GOP CRUZ lee&rubio 24billion dallar LOSS of your tax money conservatives,the garbage of America.

    As more people enroll the rates will go down. People are just waiting for the website to be fixed, and why does a single mother not qualify for a tax credit, it can't because her income is to high??????

    November 19, 2013 07:14 am at 7:14 am |
  7. LarryT

    Jessica, just don't work so hard and you can get the government money. What the hell, just let somebody else pay for it. The government will just print more money, problem solved! I am being sarcasic of course Jessica, you are a victim of your government and their system. They will screw up everytime, all the time and we will be the ones hurt. I have family waiting to hear if they can keep their health care as well, so we will be praying for you and pulling for. Love this hope and change! Happy Holidays.

    November 19, 2013 07:17 am at 7:17 am |
  8. Paul

    "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." This is what happens with wealth distribution. all you that voted for it get ready to enjoy more of it.

    November 19, 2013 07:17 am at 7:17 am |
  9. maxp0wer

    Welcome to the new system, where you can't even afford lousy "bronze" coverage if you have a middle class income.

    November 19, 2013 07:22 am at 7:22 am |
  10. cosmo

    Now he needs to fix the word Affordable to Costly Care Act.

    November 19, 2013 07:30 am at 7:30 am |
  11. jim

    Wouldn't it be nice if people in government could actually do the job they were hired for.

    November 19, 2013 07:30 am at 7:30 am |
  12. copperhead

    Here is the government plan to "fix " homelessness: The Obama Administration has determined that in order to get more homeless people in shelters, those of us who currently have a place to live need to understand that our houses don't meet all the criteria for living as determined by Obama. Since a lot of houses don't have new appliances, pools, and home theaters, they are considered to be substandard.. Although if you currently like the house you live in, you won't be able to keep it, once you are living in a government concentration camp, everything you need will be provided.

    November 19, 2013 07:31 am at 7:31 am |
  13. Rachel

    Again, why is this a surprise to anyone? This administration is the very definition of FUBAR.

    November 19, 2013 07:31 am at 7:31 am |
  14. wv

    No worries, Obama sais everything is all right. Don't you believe him? Nice job CNN placing these stories on Political ticker to avoid the mayhem on the disqus board.

    November 19, 2013 07:34 am at 7:34 am |
  15. Jonathan

    Elections have consequences.

    November 19, 2013 07:43 am at 7:43 am |
  16. Mike White

    Insurance is a financial instrument crafted and sold by bankers. They had no problem cratering the worldwide economy with exploitative business practices just to line their pockets. What makes anyone think they suddenly care about anyone's health?

    Mandatory insurance was never about putting more doctors in more zip codes to deliver health care. It was only ever about enriching bankers, and separating suckers from their money.

    November 19, 2013 07:44 am at 7:44 am |
  17. Mike White

    Insurance is a financial instrument crafted and sold by bankers. They had no problem cratering the worldwide economy with exploitative business practices just to line their pockets. What makes anyone think they suddenly care about anyone's health?

    Mandatory insurance was never about putting more doctors in more zip codes to deliver health care. It was only ever about enriching bankers, and separating citizens from their money.

    November 19, 2013 07:45 am at 7:45 am |
  18. TCinJ

    The system cannot work if everyone benefits more than what they contribute. For every dollar in subsidy given to someone, it must be taken from someone else.

    November 19, 2013 07:45 am at 7:45 am |
  19. Dave in Houston

    Impeach the author, throw out those who voted for it, and repeal this monstrosity.

    November 19, 2013 07:46 am at 7:46 am |
  20. Steve- Illinois

    LOL!!! Another "success" story.
    Ya just can't make this stuff up.
    It's always somebody else's fault when a lib finds out "free" stuff actually costs money.

    November 19, 2013 07:47 am at 7:47 am |
  21. denny

    I tried to sign up yesterday. After two hours of giving my most personal information to the healthcare.org website I was finally told that I might have better luck visiting a local exchange that had been set up in my city. Yeah right.

    November 19, 2013 07:49 am at 7:49 am |
  22. Gurgyl

    Just fix these Glitches. Hire Google, oracle etc. Fire all DC contractors. If you can, bring brilliant programmers from India or use that are already here. Give them work visas, Immigrations. Do not give room for GOP thugs to talk.

    November 19, 2013 07:52 am at 7:52 am |
  23. Bob Khane

    Health Insurance is not health care. Most people do not need health insurance for most of their life. People should not be forced to buy any insurance. This is America. Freedom to self insure is one of our rights. The LAW concerning PAYMENT for health care services is the problem. There are too many fees in the health care system not related to health services. obamacare does not address the problem. obamacare dictates too many government specified services which we all must pay for. If you deem a service immoral you should no tot be forced to pay for it or to buy it. If you deem a service unnecessary you should not be forced to buy it. A doctor is regulated by the state. Force them to accept all insurance. They took an oath. Regulate what charges and fees can be enforced in a court of law. Why can a non profit hospital charge one person $1000 for an operation and another person $50,000. Does not sound non profit to me. The patient has no rights in a court of law when the bill is presented. The bills are not reasonable and they should not be enforceable by the law.

    November 19, 2013 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  24. sisi

    My insurance shot up $100. Can't afford it. Don't qualify for a credit. Thank you Mr. President.

    November 19, 2013 07:57 am at 7:57 am |
  25. BILL, WI

    The penalty she will have to pay in 2014 is $95.00. But in 2016 the penalty will be $695.00, plus 3% of her annual income, plus $45.00 for each dependent, plus she will be on the hook for 100 per cent of all medical bills. The Affordable Health Care Act that the Dems wrote in 90 days needs about two more years of thought.

    November 19, 2013 07:59 am at 7:59 am |
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