A Washington woman hailed by President Barack Obama as an Affordable Care Act success story says her experience has turned into an Obamacare disaster.
Single mother Jessica Sanford, 48, of Federal Way, Wash., who got a shout-out from the president after her fan letter for the Affordable Care Act, has discovered she doesn't qualify for a tax credit after all – and can't afford any health insurance, the Washington State Wire reported
"It has completely turned around on me," Sanford said. "I mean, completely."
Sanford became an Obamacare celebrity Oct. 21 when the president related her story.
"I recently received a letter from a woman named Jessica Sanford in Washington state, and here's what she wrote," Obama said, the Washington State Wire reported. "'I am a single mom, no child support, self-employed, and I haven't had health insurance for 15 years because it is too expensive. My son has ADHD and requires regular doctor visits, and his meds alone cost $250 a 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 a month. I was crying the other day when I signed up. So much stress lifted.'"
The president then noted, "That is not untypical for a lot of folks like Jessica who have been struggling without health insurance. That is what the Affordable Care Act is all about."
But things quickly turned sour.
Four days after Obama made his speech, the Washington state health exchange publicly revealed a grievous error: it had been submitting monthly income information to the federal data hub, but the federal computers were expecting an annual figure. The mistake involved 4,600 policies covering 8,000 people; Sanford’s was one of them, the Washington State Wire reported.
She ultimately learned her income was too high to qualify for any subsidies at all. The cutoff is $44,680 for a single adult, 400 percent of the federal poverty level.
"I was dumbfounded," she told the Washington State Wire. "I thought this was a total mistake, they're going to correct this — this isn't true. How could I not qualify for a tax credit? I make under $50,000 a year. There's got to be something. So, I got a hold of my broker, and a couple of days later he called me back, and he told me that no, it was true."
Sanford said she's back to no insurance -- and will be fined $95 under the Affordable Care Act.
"They have to own up to what is going on," she said. "They have to fix it. They can't just go around and say this is working great. In my opinion, they ought to shut it down and just get all of it straightened out."
Sanford said she doesn't want her story to be "a political thing" and doesn’t want to be "bashing the president" or Obamacare.
"I am a big Obama fan," she insisted. "But to me, there is a big problem with the way the state is handling it. It is like a big machine: you put your stuff in there, and once you do it, it is impossible to do anything. You can't get through to them [on the phone], the website is really limited. So you are stuck on this big treadmill of bureaucracy, and you know, it feels very out of control."
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."
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