Journalists called her the “enigmatic Mona Lisa of health care” and devoted time and resources to tracking her down. But the smiling brunette whose face greeted millions of Americans when they visited the Obamacare health insurance website – which crashed repeatedly and was painfully slow to navigate after it was rolled out on Oct. 1 – remained shrouded in mystery and the subject of ridicule.
On Wednesday morning, the “Obamacare Girl” spoke out for the first time – pushed, she says, to defend herself and accusing her attackers of “cyberbullying.”
“I mean, I don’t know why people should hate me because it’s just a photo. I didn’t design the website. I didn’t make it fail, so I don’t think they should have any reasons to hate me,” said Adriana, a Maryland resident and mom to a toddler. The U.S. permanent resident of Colombian heritage asked that her last name not be used for the exclusive interview with ABC News.
As technical glitches plagued the Obamacare website, Adriana’s picture, which anchored the site for weeks, was eventually dropped, but not before comedians and conservative commentators took their shots and had their fun.
“Congrats, vapidly smiling Healthcare.gov splash page stock photo girl! You’re now the most despised face on planet Earth,” conservative blogger David Burge tweeted.
The satirical website The Onion ran an altered photo of Adriana – with raised eyebrows and a worried expression – under the headline: “People In Healthcare.gov Stock Photos Now Visibly Panicking.”
President Barack Obama has admitted that the rollout of the website – which millions of U.S. residents are to visit and shop for health insurance plans under Mr. Obama’s health-care law – has not worked well. “There’s no denying it – right now the website is too slow too many people have gotten stuck and I’m not happy about it,” said Mr. Obama in Massachusetts last month. “There’s no excuse for it and I take full responsibility for making sure it gets fixed asap.”
There have been congressional hearings to get to the bottom of the website debacle and Republicans, who were blamed for a recent government shutdown, now see the botched health insurance exchange rollout as an opportunity to gain political ground ahead of key 2014 midterm elections that will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives.
This week, former president Bill Clinton stepped into the debate by commenting on the issue of some U.S. citizens losing their existing health-care coverage because of Mr. Obama’s Affordable Care Act. “I personally believe, even if it takes a change in the law, that the President should honour the commitment the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they’ve got,” Mr. Clinton, a big promoter of the Mr. Obama’s health-care reforms, said in an interview.
Mr. Obama’s approval ratings have dropped since the rollout of the health-care law to 39 per cent from 45 per cent, according to recent Quinnipiac University polling – and Obamacare remains a deeply divisive initiative with most people disapproving of the law.
News organizations tried to track down Adriana as public frustration over the website grew. After unsuccessfully trying to find her, CNN invited the woman – dubbing her the “Mona Lisa of health care” – to call in and identify herself. She never did.
The website BuzzFeed was able to correctly name her as Adriana using source code from the website.
Adriana told ABC News that she allowed the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which was tasked with managing the online health insurance shopping site, to arrange for photos to be taken and used on the website.
She also said she has no opinion on Mr. Obama’s health-care law. She is eligible to sign up, but so far, she has not done so.