November 19th, 2013
01:14 AM ET
10 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. Bobbie

    just received a letter from Cigna yesterday. My rates will be going up 17.71% starting Jan.1 2014 due to Obamacare.

    November 19, 2013 08:05 am at 8:05 am |
  2. Bill

    It doesn't surprise me that she lost her subsidy.

    It's becoming increasingly obvious that Obamacare will gut the middle class. Only hard core die hard Democrats are still supporting it in the face of Obama's complete and total lie to the American people.

    November 19, 2013 08:05 am at 8:05 am |
  3. Dave

    There will be millions more people without health insurance once the Employer mandate kicks in. Its very simple, so many of us are used to our Employers picking up 75% of the tab and will not be able to adjust our budgets to pay the full cost.

    Result millions more uninsured.

    November 19, 2013 08:09 am at 8:09 am |
  4. srcactus

    People! It does not, it cannot cost less to insure more! Do not believe in fairy tales and do not believe politicians.
    1.) Apply common sense.
    2.) Do the math.

    November 19, 2013 08:09 am at 8:09 am |
  5. chew

    You asked for it, now live with it.

    November 19, 2013 08:13 am at 8:13 am |
  6. Rick McDaniel

    The realities of this highway robbery plan, are coming home to roost. These people are going to find out the hard way, just how bad ObamaCare really is.

    I have little sympathy.........those of us who had any sense, knew this was going to happen to people. all along.

    November 19, 2013 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  7. zelskid

    The horror continues.

    November 19, 2013 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  8. amazed a little

    Its a very complicated law. Lots of nooks and crannies, which if it were a pastry and we were dunking it in milk would be a good thing. But its a health care payment plan and it should be smooth as silk. One payer, expand medicare. And I am sort of incredulous in a way that you would run such a story. The bloom must have faded for you. Welcome to our world, CNN.

    November 19, 2013 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  9. wrm

    That stinks. Not surprising but it still stinks.

    November 19, 2013 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  10. tom l

    Anecdotal but a perfect example of the bureaucracy and morass of the federal govt. They can't handle something like this and it's stories like this that will be common, not the exception.

    November 19, 2013 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  11. Tim

    What did she expect??? The federal goverent to run something efficiently? Lesson learned my dear...don't look to someone in the government to fix your problems, you will be disappointed.

    November 19, 2013 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  12. Capt Gravy

    Bwahahahahaha.......wait till the rest experience "affordable"!!

    In fairness, if she doesn't qualify for a subsidy, then she is making a living...perhaps if she cuts out cable, or internet access .. Or some other luxury item..

    November 19, 2013 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
  13. Name

    This situation is an Obummer. Bet Barack doesn't mention her again.

    November 19, 2013 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  14. Timodeus

    I have a feeling there are quite a few Jessica Sandford's out there right now. Best of luck to them. I am actually more afraid to lose my insurance, not because I won't have any but because I will be thrown into the government's bureaucracy meat grinder.

    November 19, 2013 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  15. Croaton999

    I feel very sorry for her and the millions of other Americans who will have to make life and death choices for their families next year. Thank you King Obama.

    November 19, 2013 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  16. croaton999

    King Obama has told a lot of lies lately. The media's credibility is being called into question. When will this nightmare end?

    November 19, 2013 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  17. stan

    Even barry's success story is an utter flop, so strange that CNN would even publish this. The media created Obama and now it seems they want to undo their deed.

    November 19, 2013 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  18. john.deatherage

    ACA will be the legislative achievement of President Obama. That thrills Republicans and scares the daylights out of Democrats.

    November 19, 2013 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  19. Beans

    Unaffordable Care Act

    November 19, 2013 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  20. Government Waste Rules

    Another victory for the Obama administration! FORWARD COMRADES!

    November 19, 2013 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  21. jinx9to88

    I am beginning to think CNN is owned by Fox news. I never see a positive news about Obamacare on this site. What about those 4 couples that were on Fox 2 weeks ago saying how Obamcare ruined their lives when in fact there were no change in their premiums? Come on CNN I thought you were partisan to the issues?

    November 19, 2013 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  22. Sam Baker

    The biggest surprise of all of this is that people are surprised that the gov't simply cannot run anything efficiently.

    November 19, 2013 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  23. PALibertarian

    "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."

    I don't understand. The White House is the source of all these problems. Sanford's reluctance to blame the White House is akin to a "battered wife" mentality: "Yes, he hits me but he's still a great husband." Enough said.

    November 19, 2013 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  24. I voted for the other guy

    Jessica Sanford, If you voted for Obama... twice... Pay up... You are right not to blame Obama... Blame yourself and all your peers who voted for the people who support law and do your civic duty and pay your fair share.

    November 19, 2013 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  25. mutantsubhuman

    The Democrats have shook the sleeping giant of the US citizens awake and the giant will destroy the DNC.

    November 19, 2013 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
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