Woman cited as Obamacare success story now won't receive tax credits

A Washington woman, whom President Barack Obama quoted as an example of someone finally getting coverage under the Affordable Health Care Act, is now choosing to forgo insurance because her tax credit was miscalculated.

On Oct. 21, Obama read Jessica Sanford's email in a Rose Garden speech, describing how she would be able to afford health insurance for the first time in 15 years.

The Washington health care exchange at www.wahealthplanfinder.org had used a different file format than the federal government when communicating salary numbers. Therefore, 8,000 people, including Jessica Sanford, received letters notifying them of miscalculated tax credits.

The average premium increase was $100 more than initially quoted. Higher salaried applicants were affected more than lower income applicants.

Sanford said she makes less than $50,000 a year, and she raises a teenage son with ADHD. Seattle television station KIRO found documents showing she filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy recently.

Yet Sanford received one letter, then another, from Washington Healthplan Finder, explaining that the correct calculation shows she should not be receiving any subsidies at all.

This week, Sanford told CNN, "It was a huge disappointment, especially since my story had been shared by the president. I just felt really embarrassed that he had quoted my story, and then come to find our Washington Healthplan Finder, the website here in our state had grossly miscalculated, or they're having a problem figuring their tax credits."

Sanford told CNN she makes more than the cutoff for tax credits, but not enough to feel she can afford a full-priced health plan.
"It was like riding a big roller coaster," Sanford said. "They have my credit card, they have the payment date, and once again, I'm knocked down, and this time it's to zero."

She added, "And at my rate of pay, with my family size, I don't understand why I wouldn't get at least a little help with a tax credit."
She wrote on the Washington Healthplan Finder's Facebook page to express her frustration. She also complained of difficulty in getting through to a person for help.

That sentiment was echoed by many who posted comments in the last week.

A spokesperson for the health care exchange said they are currently hiring 145 more people to answer calls, which will nearly double their call center staff.

As for the two letters sent to Sanford, the spokesperson said that was in error.

The correct calculation for Sanford's income, based on her household size, results in her not receiving tax credits.

Staff in Olympia called Sanford personally to apologize and to walk her through the process in understanding her lack of eligibility.

Sanford told CNN someone from the White House also called to offer her any assistance needed.

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