No tax credits, so Federal Way woman in limelight nixes health plan

KIRO-TVNovember 21, 2013 

A Federal Way woman whom President Obama quoted as an example of someone finally getting coverage under the Affordable Care Act has decided 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 could afford health insurance for the first time in 15 years.

The state’s health care exchange had used a different file format than the federal government’s when communicating salary numbers. Therefore, 8,000 people, including 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 raises a teenage son with ADHD. Documents show she filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy recently.

Yet Sanford received one letter, then another, from Washington Healthplanfinder, explaining that the correct calculation shows she should not receive a subsidy.

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

Sanford said 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,” she 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 Healthplanfinder’s Facebook page to express her frustration and complained of difficulty in getting through to a person for help.

That sentiment was echoed by many who posted comments in the last week. The health care exchange said it is hiring 145 more people to answer calls, which will nearly double their call center staff.

As for the two letters sent to Sanford, a spokesperson for the agency said that was in error. The correct calculation for Sanford’s income, based on her household size, results in her receiving no tax credits.

Staff members in Olympia called Sanford 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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