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Why one Obamacare enrollee voted for Trump: "I don't see how they can call it affordable care"

Corbin, Ky. Byrd Pinkerton/Vox

Why would people vote for a presidential candidate who campaigned on taking away their health insurance?

Last week, we went to Corbin, Kentucky, to try to answer that question. It’s a small city in southeastern Kentucky, an area of the country that has seen huge declines in its uninsured rate — but that also voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump.

You can read more about what we learned there in this story, but we also wanted to give you the transcripts of the conversations we had, to let the people we spoke to speak for themselves.

One of the Obamacare enrollees we interviewed was 59 and currently a caregiver for her mother-in-law. Her husband does construction work. She asked that we not share personally-identifying information.

The woman knew her health insurance is through Obamacare, but she voted for Trump specifically because she wants him to repeal the law. She says she has few options on the marketplace — and the options she does have are far too expensive. Last week, she enrolled in a plan that had a $6,000 deductible for herself and her husband. The premium was $244, after she and her husband qualified for a significant tax credit.

Before Obamacare, she told us, her health insurance was much better. This woman feels like she was promised a chance to stay on her health insurance if they liked it, and then watched that insurance disappear.

What follows is a transcript of our conversation, edited for length and clarity.

Sarah Kliff

How do you feel about the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare?

Obamacare enrollee

I don't see how they can call it affordable care. I was paying two, three hundred dollars on my own when we did have insurance. [Ed. note: She estimates this was in 2010 or 2011] And we had no deductible, we had ... 100 percent coverage. [We had a] $5 copay to the doctor, $10 copay to the doctor; 100 percent if you go to the hospital.

Byrd Pinkerton

When you were under that insurance, did you end up deciding to go to the doctor more often because you knew it was covered?

Obamacare enrollee

Yeah. I wasn't afraid to be sick. [Now] I am totally afraid to be sick.

Sarah Kliff

And you have health insurance right now.

Obamacare enrollee

If you want to call it insurance. Right now I have a $6,000 deductible.

Sarah Kliff

On the insurance you're on now, have you skipped care?

Obamacare enrollee

Oh, yes, oh, yes. My dad had colon cancer. I'm supposed to go have one of these things [a colonoscopy] done every five years. It's been seven.

Even if I did find anything, I wouldn't go through with the treatment. The same with the mammogram. I did have a mammogram this year. I didn't last year.

Byrd Pinkerton

Wait — you're saying if you discovered you had cancer...

Obamacare enrollee

Yeah, I wouldn't have anything done. And I wouldn't tell none of them. I can't put that burden ... I did have the mammogram, and I'm like, Why did I even bother, because if they did find anything, I wouldn't have anything done anyway, so ...

Sarah Kliff

Why buy health insurance?

Obamacare enrollee

To keep from losing my house. I mean, if it's major medical. If something major happened. I'm not using it to go to the doctor. I'm not using it; I've not used anything.

Sarah Kliff

Did you go to the doctor at all last year?

Obamacare enrollee

No.

Sarah Kliff

Not once.

Obamacare enrollee

And not this year.

Sarah Kliff

Do you mind telling us who you supported in the election?

Obamacare enrollee

I voted for Trump. If you lived in Kentucky in the last eight years and watched all the jobs go away, you would understand.

Sarah Kliff

Do you think Trump is gonna fix this?

Obamacare enrollee

I think it's got out of hand; there's no way he's gonna fix it. I think the whole thing, they're going to have to go back to ground zero and start again.

Sarah Kliff

So repeal it.

Obamacare enrollee

Yeah. Because everybody, I mean, the CEOs making $13 million to $69 million a year? They don't have to pay this kind of insurance.

They don't live in a day-to-day world where they don't have to worry about insurance. They don't have to worry about being sick. They have their pension come rain or shine. They don't have to worry about coal prices or jobs or anything.

They don't know what it's like to be on unemployment every year.

Sarah Kliff

Do you think Donald Trump kind of understand all this, because he's obviously quite wealthy? But then he's going to look out for the little guy, or...

Obamacare enrollee

I'm hoping he'll have people put in place that would understand that you just can't survive like this. And we're ... not going on welfare and food stamps. That's not right. That's not us.

You just don't know what next month brings, so you got to watch out. I mean, people with welfare and food stamps, they don't even grow a garden anymore. You've got to have a garden, you have to survive. That's the way I was raised. The people who still care and still do it. If everything was handed to you, no, you're not going to grow a garden.

I worked in the school system for 13 years. I was secretary at the school.

And when they had the Christmas programs, some of the area programs will say to the teachers, “I want a list of your poorest kids,” and get them clothes and toys and stuff.

They are not the one that needs help. They are the one that's getting the welfare and the food stamps, the electric bill paid for, everything. It's the ones that’s working and barely scraping by that—

Sarah Kliff

Aren't getting enough help?

Obamacare enrollee

And then here, the Christmas programs are all geared for the poorest ones.

Sarah Kliff

What would fix your problem? If you could talk to Trump, to these congressmen, what would you tell them?

Obamacare enrollee

Well, for one thing, if the coal business did come back and pick up, that would help our area a whole lot, and our incomes a whole lot. But as far as the health care, I don't see no end in sight in all this. This is like ... gas prices a few years ago. It's just going to keep going up.

Sarah Kliff

Did you think about health care in the election at all?

Obamacare enrollee

Yes. Yes. Jobs, health care. Hopefully a better life.

I would like to see the premiums come back down to where they were before Obamacare, and I would like to see the health care come back to what it was.


Watch: Repealing Obamacare could change millions of lives