Woman Who Obama Cited as Obamacare Success Story Now Says She Can’t Afford Health Coverage

In a Rose Garden
last month, President Obama defended his health care
law, and offered some anecdotes about people it would help. One of
those people  was Jessica Sanford, who’d written to President
Obama describing her health insurance predicament. President Obama
read from the letter in his speech.

I recently received a letter from a woman named Jessica Sanford
in Washington State.  And here’s what she wrote:  “I am a
single mom, no child support, self-employed, and I haven’t had
insurance for 15 years because it’s too expensive.  My son has
ADHD and requires regular doctor visits and his meds alone cost
$250 per month.  I have had an ongoing tendinitis problem due
to my line of work that I haven’t had treated.  Now, finally,
we get to have coverage because of the ACA for $169 per
month.  I was crying the other day when I signed up.  So
much stress lifted.”

But Sanford’s story doesn’t end there.
As CNN’s Jim Acosta reports
, thanks to a series of glitches,
Sanford’s insurance premiums turned out to be far higher than she
initially expected:

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

It didn’t end there either. Eventually got a second letter from
Washington’s state-run exchange. That letter, according to CNN,
stated that “there had been another problem, a “system error” that
resulted in some “applicants to qualify for higher than allowed
health insurance premium tax credits.” And because of that error,
Sanford would have to pay more still:

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

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

Then another letter from the state exchange with even worse

“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.

Sanford, who is self-employed, tells CNN that she now plans to
avoid purchasing health insurance entirely, because it’s simply not
affordable on her budget.     

It’s worth highlighting the fact that this occurred in one of
the 15 state-run exchanges that is supposed to be working better
than the federally facilitated system covering 36 states. Indeed,
Washington state’s exchange has
as one of the systems that works the best among the
state-run exchanges. But those reports tend to focus on the
consumer experience—the ability of a user to smoothly navigate from
start to finish in the insurance enrollment process. Yet as
Sanford’s story shows, a smooth process can still be frustrated by
inaccurate pricing and subsidy information. The same, naturally,
would be true of incorrect enrollment data being sent to insurers,
another problem that’s apparently pervasive in the federal

Sanford’s story illustrates how some the Obamacare stories that
might initially look like successes might not be once the data and
pricing issues are all sorted out, and offers a reminder that
sometimes the process of getting things straight can take weeks.
That’s why we ought to remain skeptical about the White House’s
push to improve the enrollment experience for the “vast majority of
users.” It’s not just the user end that’s broken. And even if the
website works well enough to allow most people who want to enroll
to get through the process, there’s no guarantee that it will
continue to work once they’re inside the system. 

from In the News http://reason.com/press/in-the-news/2013/11/19/woman-who-obama-cited-as-obamacare-succe

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