A Cary, N.C., woman who says she can now afford health insurance was among a group of 10 Americans invited to the White House on Tuesday to stand behind President Barack Obama as he went on the offensive against House Republicans who voted again to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Spurred by opponents’ efforts to repeal the law, Darlene Whitted, a 53-year-old customer service representative, wrote the president in December to tell him that there were people like her who wouldn’t have health insurance had it not been for his work.
Whitted said that when her monthly premiums had risen to over $400, she dropped her insurance in 2012. She lived for a year hoping nothing would happen. She again attained health insurance through the Affordable Care Act the first year it was available. She says she now pays just $22 a month for insurance.
“I just wanted to encourage the president to know that there are people out here who appreciate the Affordable Care Act,” she said in an interview.
Now that Republicans control both chambers of Congress, they have launched a new attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Obama charged lawmakers with playing politics with people’s health. Providing healthcare to U.S. citizens, he said, “is not some political, ideological bet. It’s about people.”
“My understanding is the House of Representatives has scheduled yet another vote today to take health care away from the folks sitting around this table,” Obama told reporters Tuesday. “I don’t know whether it’s the 55th or the 60th time that they are taking this vote. But I’ve asked this question before: Why is it that this would be at the top of their agenda?”
The White House receives more than 40,000 letters, e-mails and faxes every day. Staff members go through the mail and select 10 letters for the president to read each night. Obama cited those letters in a speech this summer in Kansas City, Mo.
“Folks tell me their stories – they tell me their worries and their hopes and their hardships, their successes,” he said. “Some say I’m doing a good job. But other people say, ‘You’re an idiot.’”
While the House of Representatives has voted more than 50 times to repeal or cut back the healthcare law, Republican Study Committee Chairman Bill Flores, R-Texas, and Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Ala., who sponsored the legislation to repeal the law, said it’s the first time that newly elected lawmakers have a chance to fulfill their campaign promises to try to end the law.
“It is an unmistakable reminder that the priorities of America’s new Congress are not dictated by special interest groups,” they said in a joint op-ed for TownHall.com, a conservative website. “Instead, our priorities flow from conversations going on around kitchen tables across the country.”
Obama has threatened to veto any legislation that repeals or diminishes the healthcare law. On Tuesday he encouraged Americans to sign up for healthcare before the Feb. 15 deadline of open enrollment.
Whitted was part of a group of men and women intended to put a face on the benefits of the Affordable Care Act. Several said they might not have been alive if it weren’t for the healthcare law.
Whitted is an active member of the Democratic Women of Wake County. She said her family has contributed less than $500 to Obama’s campaigns over the years.
Whitted said she has no idea why her letter was chosen, but she doesn’t mind playing a political role in Obama’s offensive against Republicans.
She encouraged it.
“I’m glad he’s fighting,” she said. “I would have liked to see him fighting beforehand.”