Obamacare Partisans Getting Personal

Photograph by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Sakoun Khanthanoua with an insurance marketplace pamphlet while waiting to speak to a health navigator at an education and enrollment event in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Forget government shutdowns.

The partisans in Washington have decided the battle over Obamacare will be won or lost by the Mary Todds from Virginia, Johns from North Carolina and Emilys from Louisiana.

The latest battleground in the war of anecdotes appeared today in the Oval Office, where President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama welcomed the TV cameras and reporters’ microphones into their meeting with eight moms, including Virginia’s Mary Todd Glascock. The single mom and Spanish teacher was able to keep her 21-year-old cancer-stricken son on her own health plan thanks to the Affordable Care Act, according to the White House.

“Nothing can replace the stories,” Obama said, adding that mothers have “credibility” to help promote the law. “Face-to-face interaction makes this concrete and it describes exactly why this is important.”

Since Republicans have untangled Obamacare from the government budget — a move that led to a 17-day partial federal shutdown in October — both Republicans and Democrats have relied on telling stories of folks back home dealing with the new program to back up their own particular point of view.

Standing aside Republican House Speaker John Boehner earlier this month, North Carolina Rep. Virginia Foxx told the story of “John from Ash County” whose premiums were increasing while his work hours were being cut.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat, last month told the story of 22-year-old Emily, a constituent who overcame partial deafness to attend college in New York only to get struck by a car. Because of Obamacare, Landrieu said, the woman was insured.

“This is too much to believe, but it’s true,” Landrieu told reporters. “This is worth fighting for.”

House Republicans have created a website to collect more fodder. They’re big on insurance cancellations at GOP.gov/YourStory.

“Our members are going to continue to collect stories,” Boehner told reporters last month. “We’re going to do everything we can to try to protect the American people from this awful law.”


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