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Local woman who became the face of the Affordable Care Act in 2010 dies at 61

Barack Obama, Natoma Canfield
Posted at 11:42 AM, Jun 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-23 18:59:34-04

MEDINA TOWNSHIP — Natoma Canfield, the Medina Township woman who wrote a letter to former President Barack Obama in 2010 that helped the passage of the Affordable Care Act, died on June 18 at the age of 61.

Obama tweeted his condolences to her family on Wednesday.

"By telling her story, Natoma Canfield helped us pass the Affordable Care Act," Obama said in the tweet. "She was an inspiration to me and so many others, which is why her letter still hangs in my office. Michelle and I send our condolences to Natoma’s family."

In 2010, Canfield wrote to Obama explaining that she had to drop her health insurance because she could no longer afford the premiums. Her premiums had jumped 40%. The year before that, her premiums had jumped 25%.

She told Obama about her fear of getting sick again and losing her home.

Obama not only saw her letter, but he interrupted a meeting of insurance executives at the White House and read Natoma's letter to them, a move that generated national attention and thrust Natoma Canfield into the national spotlight.

She quickly became the face of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare — her story a rallying cry for the passing of the landmark legislation.

When the Affordable Care Act passed and was signed into law, Canfield was in the Cleveland Clinic unable to attend, her sister Connie standing in her place behind the president as he signed the legislation. When the Supreme Court upheld the law in 2012, President Obama told the nation of the role Natoma played.

"I carried Natoma’s story with me every day of the fight to pass this law. It reminded me of all the Americans, all across the country, who have had to worry not only about getting sick, but about the cost of getting well," Obama said.

Canfield and Obama would later meet after she traveled to Washington at his request to see her letter framed in the Oval Office—a letter that to this day, Obama said still hangs in his personal office.

RELATED: Woman who became the face of Obamacare looks back a decade after the passing of the ACA

Natoma chose to donate her body to medical research in hopes of being part of finding a cure for any of her many medical conditions, according to her obituary.

A visitation and memorial service are being held Wednesday at Waite Funeral Home in Medina. Donations in her memory can be made to Feeding Medina County, and online condolences and memories may be left at the Waite Funeral Home website here.

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