Despite Health Care Worries, Trump Voters Don't Regret Their Choice

Nov 4, 2017
Originally published on November 4, 2017 1:45 pm

This story is part of Kitchen Table Conversations, a series from NPR's National Desk that examines how Americans from all walks of life are moving forward from the presidential election. This is the fourth postelection visit with Jamie Ruppert, 34, of White Haven, Pa.

Nearly a year after the election, health insurance is on Jamie Ruppert's mind. She gave birth to daughter Berlin in July, and even with insurance through her husband's work, she faced hundreds of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses.

Health care costs are one reason Ruppert joined many others in her community and switched from historically voting for Democrats to picking Donald Trump for president in 2016.

"The idea of Obamacare was great, but when I started seeing the premiums people were getting quoted, no, I wasn't a fan of it," says Ruppert.

Ruppert says she knows young people who refused to sign up for Affordable Care Act — also known as Obamacare — policies because they found them too expensive. Instead, she says, they chose to pay a penalty of at least $695 at tax time.

She figured a businessman like Trump could strike a better deal on behalf of young people; Ruppert liked Trump's repeal-and-replace campaign promise.

But the president and the Republican-dominated Congress are struggling to make good on that pledge. Now Trump predicts the ACA marketplaces will fail.

As open enrollment for ACA policies began on Nov. 1, Ruppert's mom, Linda McDermott, was worried.

"I had breast cancer in 1996, and I got yearly mammograms after that until 2009," she says.

McDermott was on her husband's health plan through work but then lost her coverage when he turned 65 and qualified for Medicare. They couldn't afford a private policy for her back then, so she went without. Now she is 62 — her husband has died — and she qualifies for a subsidized ACA plan that costs less than $100 a month.

"I enrolled in the Affordable Care Act in January 2016, and in March, I had developed a basal cell carcinoma," she says.

The insurance came just in time to pay most of the $7,000 cost to treat the skin cancer. McDermott says Obamacare has been good for her.

Still, McDermott switched like her daughter from voting Democratic and picked Trump. She says his position on restricting immigration was the main reason; she wasn't as focused on health care then.

"Trump sang a good song, you know, 'We're going to repeal and replace. It will be done simultaneously, you know, it will be done within the same day — maybe within the same hour,' " McDermott remembers.

"I don't think he thought it was going to be so hard," says Ruppert. She thinks Trump was used to running his companies where he would order something and it would be done.

Ruppert and her mom hope some form of affordable health insurance will remain available for just a few more years until McDermott qualifies for Medicare at 65. Despite this uncertainty and a string of negative news about Trump and his administration, Ruppert remains a supporter of the president.

"I don't regret voting for Trump. I regret, maybe, believing as much and putting as much faith into a politician," says Ruppert. But Trump still has more than three years in office — and she is waiting before delivering a final judgment on her candidate's performance.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

For one young mother in Pennsylvania, one thing has been on her mind - health insurance. Since last year's presidential election, we've been checking in with Jamie Ruppert and other Americans from all walks of life. She voted for Democrats in the past. But like many others in her community, she voted for Donald Trump this time. NPR's Jeff Brady went to Luzerne County, Pa., to meet up with her again.

JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: What really concerns Jamie Ruppert is her mother's health care. So for this visit, we met at her mom's house in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOG BARKING)

BRADY: That's her mom's dog who is not a fan of strangers. The dog seems OK with babies, though. Ruppert is holding her 3-month-old daughter. What Ruppert thinks is that health care is expensive. After her daughter, Berlin, was born, even with insurance through her husband's job, there were hundreds of dollars of out-of-pocket medical expenses. During the 2016 election, the Affordable Care Act is one of the reasons Ruppert switched parties and voted for Trump.

JAMIE RUPPERT: The idea of Obamacare was great. But when I started seeing the premiums people were getting quoted, no, I wasn't a fan of it.

BRADY: Ruppert is 34 and says she knows young people who refuse to sign up for expensive ACA policies, choosing instead to pay a penalty of at least $700 at tax time. Ruppert figured a businessman like Trump could strike a better deal to help young people.

She liked his repeal-and-replace campaign promise. But the president and the Republican-dominated Congress are struggling to make good on that pledge. Now Trump predicts the ACA marketplaces will fail. That worries Ruppert's mom, Linda McDermott.

LINDA MCDERMOTT: I had breast cancer in 1996. And I got yearly mammograms after that up until 2009.

BRADY: McDermott was on her husband's health plan through work but then lost her coverage when he turned 65 and qualified for Medicare. They couldn't afford a private policy for her back then, so she went without. Now she's 62. Her husband has died. And she qualifies for a subsidized ACA plan that costs less than $100 a month.

MCDERMOTT: I enrolled in the Affordable Care Act in January of 2016. And in March, I had developed a basal cell carcinoma.

BRADY: McDermott says the insurance came just in time to pay for the skin cancer treatment.

MCDERMOTT: So all in all, it's been good for me, you know, I must say.

BRADY: Still, during the 2016 election, McDermott, like her daughter, switched from a history of picking Democrats to voting for Trump. She says his position on restricting immigration was the main reason. She wasn't as focused on health care when she cast her vote.

MCDERMOTT: Trump sang a good song. You know, we're going to repeal and replace. It will be done simultaneously. You know, it will be done within the same day, maybe within the same hour. You know, at the stroke of midnight, everything just, you know, changes.

RUPPERT: I don't think he thought it was going to be so hard. You know, it's easy to drop a business plan and follow through on it. But this is not just a simple business plan or budget plan or sales meeting. This is, you know, people's lives.

BRADY: Ruppert and her mom hope some form of affordable health insurance will remain available for just a few more years until McDermott qualifies for Medicare at 65. Despite this uncertainty and a string of negative news about Trump and his administration, Ruppert remains a supporter of the president.

RUPPERT: So I don't regret voting for Trump. I regret maybe believing as much and putting as much faith into a politician. And we all know that politicians will say whatever you want to hear to get into office.

BRADY: Trump still has more than three years in office. So Ruppert is waiting before delivering a final judgment on her candidate's performance. Jeff Brady, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.