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A woman who signs people up for Obamacare explains why she voted for Trump

Kathy Oller signs up Kentuckians for health care coverage in Corbin, Ky.
Kathy Oller signs up Kentuckians for health care coverage in Corbin, Ky. 
Byrd Pinkerton/Vox

CORBIN, Kentucky — 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 people we met who surprised us the most was Kathy Oller, an Obamacare enrollment worker who voted for Trump this year. Oller likes the idea of getting everyone health coverage — she has signed more people up for Obamacare coverage than she can count, and says she voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012 specifically because of his health care platform.

We shadowed Oller for a full day in Kentucky and conducted this interview at the end, after she’d enrolled four people in coverage that day. What follows is a transcript of our discussion, edited for length and clarity.

Sarah Kliff

What is your favorite part of your job, working in health care enrollment?

Kathy Oller

I'm a people person, I love meeting people. I like going to events and going to the community. I like to go to all the surrounding counties, and just working with people in general.

I like just being able to give them good news. But it's not always good news with Healthcare.gov, because of the amounts that the premiums went up and their larger deductibles.

Sarah Kliff

Maybe we could talk about Affordable Care Act and what you think about it. Walk me through some of the pros and cons you've learned about in your job.

Kathy Oller

Over the years I've worked it, I felt at first it was more reasonable, but … with the premiums being so high, it's difficult for people to even go to the doctor.

When you come every time for open enrollment, it's like Russian roulette, because you don't know how much you're going to pay. It can go up two or three hundred dollars, and then, because it's not enough choices here, you cannot go to the hospital you used to trust in. You have to go somewhere different and hope that it's all the insurance that you purchased.

But the pros … I think it makes people more aware that the whole purpose of health care is preventive.

Sarah Kliff

Who did you vote for in 2008?

Kathy Oller

I voted for Obama.

Sarah Kliff

What about 2012?

Kathy Oller

Obama.

Sarah Kliff

Why?

Kathy Oller

I voted for him because I knew that he was going to give us health care. I was in a preexisting condition. And right away he said, if you need health insurance, we're gonna do away with the preexisting.

And I said, “Oh good.” You know, everybody needs health care. Three-quarters of the problem is preexisting conditions. That’s why you go to the doctor.

With Obama, I thought he'd just do the health care and it'd be a reasonable price. And that's what they said it would be, but it's gotten out of hand now.

Sarah Kliff

You were on Medicaid for a very short amount of time, and I was hoping you could tell us the situation that led you to be on Medicaid for a few months?

Kathy Oller

I was between grant jobs and my boyfriend got sick with cancer. For five days a week, seven weeks, we went back and forth to Lexington every day, which is an hour and a half from my house. So there's three hours on the road, and then his treatments lasted four hours.

I decided to choose to try to get on this new system. Three years ago, so 2013. I thought, “Let's see what Obama's gave me now.”

Then my husband, my boyfriend at the time, he ended up getting out of the treatments, so then at that point, I got hired at this position. And of course, I'm always telling everybody you need health care.

Sarah Kliff

Who did you vote for in 2016?

Kathy Oller

I voted for Trump. It was a Russian roulette again, but I felt that we need change, because they're not capping off this. It's just the amounts are so high, and we need change, and there was so much going on in the government with secrecy.

I think we just need a blend of different people.

Sarah Kliff

Trump campaigned on repealing Obamacare. Do you think he's going to repeal all these programs that you've been signing people up for?

Kathy Oller

The funny thing is, my husband said, “You know, he’s going to eliminate health care.” But he really can’t totally take it out, because everybody has to have health care. You can't go backward. But I think that he should look at it, come and walk the walk with us … or have his advisers come and see, like in these rural areas.

Come and see these people and really get down in the dirt with us and see what's going on. Not just make these rules up there.

Sarah Kliff

Did you hear him talking about repealing Obamacare in the campaign?

Kathy Oller

Yeah, he was going to get rid of it. But I found out with Trump … he says a lot of stuff. [laughs] I just think all politicians promise you everything and then we'll see.

It's like when you get married. “Oh honey, I won't do this. Oh honey, I won't do that.”

Sarah Kliff

Do you think around this area there's more people being helped by Obamacare or more people being hurt by it?

Kathy Oller

Helped.

I have worked with low-income people my whole life. Since 1981, so I've seen all the poverty in the area and I've seen a lot of abuse. There are some states that don't have Medicaid. And the sad thing is, they don't have it … and people die.


Watch: Repealing Obamacare could change millions of lives