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Medina woman who became the face of Obamacare looks back a decade after the passing of the ACA

Natoma Canfield reflects ten years after Obamacare fight
Posted: 9:29 AM, Jan 14, 2020
Updated: 2020-01-14 18:30:12-05
Natoma Canfield, of Medina, sits down with News 5's John Kosich.
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MEDINA, Ohio — A decade ago the world was about to be introduced to Medina resident Natoma Canfield. The cancer survivor had just written to then, President Obama, about how she had to drop her health insurance because she could no longer afford the premiums which had just jumped 40% after jumping 25% the year before.

The fear she shared with the president was of getting sick and losing her family home. The president 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.

"My brain is pretty well fried today. I'm just so overwhelmed," Canfield told News 5 that night in March 2010.

It would generate so much attention over the next week that the White House would decide to take their push for the Affordable Care Act to Northeast Ohio, but when administration officials tried to reach Natoma to have her join the president, they weren't able to reach her, nobody knew where she was. It would turn out she was in the hospital when the president would tell the crowd he came to town.

"Doctors performed a battery of tests and on Saturday Natoma was diagnosed with leukemia," President Obama said.

Canfield quickly became the face of Obamacare with her story of a rallying cry for the passing of the landmark legislation. Looking back ten years later, Canfield said a lot of it is a blur.

"Everything happened so fast," she recalled. "If you were going to write this in a novel, no one would ever believe it because there were so many twists and turns and every time the phone rang something changed, whether it was my health or the president or the hospital calling it was an amazing blur."

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.

Since then, the ACA would survive a challenge in the Congress and faces yet another possible date with the U.S. Supreme Court that could come as early as this spring.

"The whole thing concerns me yes cause the whole thing was not perfect from the beginning but it had a lot of promise and a lot of it has been torn at," Canfield told News 5. "I still have parents come up to me and say wow my son, my daughter, they're going to college and they had a pre-existing condition we never thought that they could be covered this long. Even though I didn't do it myself it's nice to hear that.

Canfield would eventually travel to Washington at the president's invitation to see the letter she wrote framed and hanging on the wall of the Oval Office and she still keeps in touch with the man she sent it to a decade ago.

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"I had gotten in contact reminding him that it was our ten year anniversary and I hadn't forgotten and of course he said he had not either and he called to see how I was and was sorry I had just been through a round of more hospital stays," Canfield said of the former president. "Just a caring person."

Another thing Mr. Obama shared with Natoma was the fact that her letter that once hung in the Oval Office, still hangs today in his private office.