Sherri Underwood reluctantly cast her vote for Donald Trump in November.
But as her health insurance premiums continued to rise, reaching a price higher than her mortgage, she decided to vote for Trump with the hope that he would repeal and replace Obamacare. She wasn’t alone: Health care was one of the top reasons that voters chose Trump in the 2016 election. A Pew study shows the issue was one of the five most important issues for Americans. Many Trump voters expressed frustration with high premiums and the penalty tax of Obamacare. And “repeal and replace,” repeated for years by Republican Congress members, became one of Trump’s signature campaign promises.
But by the time Inauguration Day rolled around, Underwood already regretted her choice. She told Vox that in January she was already seeing signs that Trump wasn’t going to stay true to his campaign promises.
And she recently saw her fears come true: The American Health Care Act, Republicans’ repeal-and-replace plan — the very issue that had decided her vote — failed.
The bill was extraordinarily unpopular, with some polls showing it had 21 percent overall favorability.
With the demise of the repeal-and-replace bill, polls have shown that Trump’s voters don’t seem to place most of the blame on the president himself. Only 4 percent of his supporters put most of the blame on him for the failure of AHCA, with more supporters, about 27 percent, blaming the bill’s authors.
Underwood’s feelings about the bill, however, are complex. She wants a replacement for Obamacare, but she wasn’t pleased with the AHCA either. “I didn’t really have strong, preconceived notions of how Washington would accomplish this,” she said. “If that means more government spending to make that happen or more free market enterprise options, it is more or less irrelevant to me. I just wanted to make it happen.”
I spoke to Underwood this week about how she’s feeling now that Republican plans to repeal Obamacare have failed.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Can you explain why Obamacare was so important to you in the 2016 election?
Repeal and replace was the primary motivating factor in my vote for Donald Trump. It is what swayed my vote despite my misgivings with him. The premiums had continued to climb under Obamacare. It was really squeezing our household budget, and I was still unable to buy the medications I needed. I didn’t receive much coverage under my policy, and I felt like I was being held hostage to this policy that wasn’t beneficial to me unless I needed it for some catastrophic event.
What did you hope Trump would do if you voted for him?
I wanted Trump to do away with the tax penalty mandate if you didn’t get coverage. I wanted him to lower premiums and expand coverage under these plans.
I didn’t really have strong, preconceived notions of how Washington would accomplish this. I’m not running for office, I’m not promising to make it better. I take them at their word to make it better. If that means more government spending to make that happen or more free market enterprise options, it is more or less irrelevant to me. I just wanted them to make it happen. They promised they would do it, and it was a strong campaign process [by Trump]. I just wanted them to figure it out and get it done.
How do you feel now that AHCA, the Republicans’ replacement plan, failed to pass Congress?
I’m bitterly disappointed that they couldn’t come up with a better plan. But I’m very glad this particular plan didn’t pass. It fell far short of their promises. And the blame falls on both Republicans in Congress and Trump. They’ve been espousing for years that they’ve been ready to take this on, that they can solve this issue, and right out of the box, they present something that falls far short of the goal. I’m really glad it did not pass.
It has only reinforced my regretful decision to vote for Trump. It’s reduced any optimism I’ve had in going forward, and really undermines the credibility of Trump and the Republican Party.
What do you want to see going forward?
They need to reach out to Democrats and work with them on revising and improving Obamacare. I would like to see them work on lowering prescription cost, increasing provider choice. This is all possible, but I’m skeptical they’ll do it because of party affiliation, egos, and special interest and lobbyists.
As we have come to find out in the last few months, there are congressional members who are playing the stock market and benefiting from pharmaceutical stocks. I don’t see how they can be objective in passing legislation with these special interests. I feel like there are conflicts of interest. I don’t see Congress passing laws to prevent themselves from doing this, unfortunately.
If they don’t work together to get at the crux of the issue of rising health care costs, I’m not sure that any plan that they put forth will be ideal. The pity of this is that it is possible, if they are willing to pick up their shovels dig through the muck and get to it.
What about your friends and family, whom you have described as largely Trump supporters?
I’m trying to be respectful of their viewpoints, but it’s frustrating. They seem so blinded to anything negative about Trump or the Republican stronghold in Congress. They feel I’m not giving Trump enough time. But if you look at past presidents at this point within the first 100 days, I feel that this administration has a lot of shortcomings. But they blame the Democrats for halting Trump’s progress. They blame fake news stories, they aren’t open to any outside news sources that they might view as fake news. It’s alarming to me that some of them will only believe what Trump says from his own mouth.
Some of them disagree with his Twitter rants, [but] they still have a lot of hope for him and hold him in high credibility. When I point out conflicts in their viewpoints, that’s when they shut down and won’t talk with me any longer about it, talking about what we suffered from Obama for eight years. They say it’s still better than Hillary Clinton. But this isn’t about Hillary. It’s post-election.
They are willing to give him time. They say, this was his first try, and he had a lot of opposition. To them, it’s more or less a persecution complex for poor little Trump. That’s what I find disturbing and frustrating. That he’s trying to make America great again against all of these insurmountable forces in Washington. It seems they fail to see his own accountability in this.
I would encourage people on the other side to be more open to regretters. I certainly understand their anger and frustration, but we need to work together going forward.