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Woman Obama Held Up as ACA Success Story Turns Out to Be a Perfect Example of Everything Wrong With the Law

The problems experienced by Jessica Sanford speak to serious dysfunction and mismanagement

This is really embarrassing.

Jessica Sanford, the woman President Obama held up last month as an example of the Affordable Care Act working, turned out to be a perfect example of everything wrong with the law. From CNN (you really need to read the whole thing):

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.

This though was only the first of a series of letters informing Jessica Sanford that her tax credits were calculated wrong, sending her premiums for the plan she wanted from $198 to over $400.

Her crazy story highlights the two of the biggest things wrong with the law. The first is the technical problem. They not only calculated her income wrong once but did it again several more times. This speaks to serious dysfunction and mismanagement, which is the byproduct of a Rude Goldberg plan. These technical problems will presumably be improved at some point, but given how complex the system is these kinds of errors will never be fully eliminated. It is at least fortunate she found out now instead of later. If that happened she could have been hit with a large surprise tax bill at the end of the year when the IRS clawed back her subsidies.

The much larger problem is that the Affordable Care Act does not actually make care affordable for many. This is a problem that is not going away. The subsidies are simply too small and restricted. Expecting middle class families to pay 10 percent of their income for insurance with a massive deductible simply does not qualify as “affordable.” Mandating that people buy coverage they can’t afford or can’t afford to use is not really universal health care. It just pretends to be.

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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