A Medina Township woman whose story of soaring health insurance premiums became a driving force to pass the Affordable Care Act in 2010, died Friday.
Natoma Canfield wrote President Barack Obama a letter on Dec. 29, 2009, detailing her battle with cancer and the skyrocketing health insurance premiums she could no longer afford.
Canfield had been cancer-free for 11 years, but her premiums continued to rise beyond what she could pay with her income as a self-employed cleaning woman.
“Thanks to this incredible premium increase demanded by my insurance company, January will be my last month of insurance,” she wrote in the letter.
Although she had remained with the same health insurance provider for several years, her premiums increased 25% in 2009 and 40% in 2010.
“I need your Health reform bill to help me!!!” she wrote. “I simply can no longer afford to pay for my health care costs!!”
As contentious debate on the legislation took place on Capitol Hill, the president used Canfield’s story to demonstrate the devastating toll health care costs could have on sick individuals. Her story helped shore up support of the Affordable Care Act, which became law on March 23, 2010.
Obama invited Canfield to a health care reform rally in March 2010, but she was unable to attend because she was undergoing treatment for leukemia at the Cleveland Clinic.
Her letter was later framed to hang in the White House, and Obama cited its personal significance to him. He later placed it in his personal library after leaving the White House.
“I carried Natoma’s story with me every day of the fight to pass this law,” the president said June 28, 2012, after a U.S. Supreme Court decision ruling the ACA was constitutional. “It reminded me of all the Americans, all across the country, who have had to worry not only about getting sick, but about the cost of getting well.”
Canfield and her sister visited the White House in 2012 despite Canfield’s persistent health issues.
A bone marrow transplant failed to stop Canfield’s health problems as other cancers and health conditions followed her leukemia treatment. In following years, Canfield spent much of her time at the clinic.
In a January 2020 interview with News 5 Cleveland, Canfield said she had been overwhelmed by the attention her letter generated.
“Everything happened so fast, if you were going to write this in a novel, no one would ever believe it,” she said.
A memorial service for Canfield will be held Wednesday in Medina.
Leave a message for Alan Ashworth at 330-996-3859 or email him at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @newsalanbeaconj.