The Washington Post

Natoma Canfield, the cancer survivor Obama cited

In his remarks on the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of his health-care reform law, President Obama devoted a sizable portion of his remarks to a little-known Ohio woman: Natoma Canfield.

“There’s a framed letter that hangs in my office right now. It was sent to me during the health-care debate by a woman named Natoma Canfield,” Obama said. “I carried Natoma’s story with me every day of the fight to pass this law.”

Canfield told Obama that after she was diagnosed with cancer, her insurance rates kept going up until she lost her coverage.

“It was amazing, just amazing,” the 52-year-old Medina, Ohio, resident told The Fix. She watched Obama’s announcement on mute, from a restaurant, with the words crawling across the screen. I couldn’t believe the president of the United States had my letter framed on his wall.”

Canfield wrote her letter to Obama on Dec. 29, 2009. The president shared it with insurance executives in March 2010, while trying to pressure the industry to back health-care reform.

Canfield, who ultimately qualified for Medicaid, received a bone-marrow transplant and is now cancer-free but still in recover.y

In a May 2010 town hall in Strongsville, Ohio, Obama highlighted Canfield’s story. He asked Canfield herself to appear, but she was too sick; her sister introduced the president instead.

Then-Rep. John Boccieri (D), who represented Canfield’s district, switched his vote on health-care reform from “no” to “yes” after Obama’s town hall — a decision that likely contributed to his loss that fall. He cited her story in explaining his switch.

“If in this job I can save one job, one life, one family, one person, one Natoma, this job is worth it,” he said at the time.

“I think it’s going to help a lot of people,” Canfield told a local Fox News affiliate after the Supreme Court ruling was announced. “Sometimes you have to give something a chance.”

Despite her role in the health-care debate, Canfield has never spoken to Obama. If she could, she said, “I’d just thank him and tell him how proud I am of him.”

Rachel Weiner covers local politics for The Washington Post.


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