Obamacare success story can’t afford Obamacare
Jessica Sanford received a major shout-out last month when President Barack Obama mentioned her fan letter lauding her cheap, new Obamacare coverage. But the Washington state business owner has now been informed that she can’t even afford the cheapest Obamacare exchange plan in her state.
“I’m really terribly embarrassed,” Sanford told the Washington State Wire. “It has completely turned around on me. I mean, completely.”
The Washington state exchange website, Washington Healthplanfinder, originally gave Sanford a quote for coverage that would insure both her and her son for just $169 per month.
But after a series of corrections, Sanford’s son is now on a state Medicaid plan and Sanford will pay the individual-mandate penalty instead of purchasing health insurance for herself.
The Obamacare exchange website originally calculated that Sanford would be eligible for a federal Obamacare tax credit that would lower her monthly premium total by $452 per month — prompting the effusive letter that Obama read aloud during a White House speech.
“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,” Sanford wrote to the president. “I was crying the other day when I signed up. So much stress lifted.”
Obama was quick to share Sanford’s gratitude with the world, saying Sanford’s experience is “what the Affordable Care Act is all about.”
“The essence of the law — the health insurance that’s available to people — is working just fine,” Obama said at the White House, just before apologizing for the botched HealthCare.gov rollout. “In some cases, actually, it’s exceeding expectations — the prices are lower than we expected, the choice is greater than we expected.”
But the Washington exchange made big mistakes calculating her subsidy and informed Sanford just days later that she doesn’t qualify for any federal assistance.
Sanford was one of 8,000 people to be affected by 4,600 policies sold on the Washington exchange that had been quoted premium rates that were too low.
The exchange adjusted Sanford’s tax credit from the $452 break she’d originally been promised down to just $110 off her monthly premium.
The Obama administration has blamed problems like Sanford’s on red states that declined the Medicaid expansion, but Washington both accepted the expansion and opted to run its own exchange, as Obamacare supporters had planned.
“I was dumbfounded,” Sanford said about the exchange’s belated revelation that she wouldn’t receive any federal subsidies. “I thought this was a total mistake, they’re going to correct this — this isn’t true.”
Sanford now says she can’t even afford the cheapest, bronze Obamacare plan. “I was like, forget that,” Sanford told the Washington State Wire. “I’m not going to pay.” She will go uninsured.
And after all the mishaps, it turns out Sanford’s son isn’t even eligible for the Medicaid plan she enrolled him in — but the structure of the state program makes it difficult, if not impossible, for Sanford to disenroll him, according to Washington insurance broker Vernon Bonfield.
Sanford now says of Obamacare, “you are stuck on this big treadmill of bureaucracy, and you know, it feels very out of control.”
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