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13 Nov, 2013 19:04

Colombian ‘Face of Obamacare’ complains about cyberbullying

Colombian ‘Face of Obamacare’ complains about cyberbullying

The woman whose image graced the homepage of the ill-fated Healthcare.Gov website upon its unsuccessful launch last month has stepped forward to say she’s sick of being cyber-bullied.

In an interview with ABC News published on Wednesday, the model publically weighed in for the first time on what it was like to have her picture plastered across the website for President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which remains the subject of intense scrutiny and ridicule roughly six weeks after launch.

The woman, who asked only to be identified by her first name “Adriana,” told ABC that was not paid for the gig, and instead opted to become the face of so-called Obamacare in exchange for having free family portraits taken in a deal brokered through the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency responsible for the roll-out of the ACA and its website.

Adriana said she first learned her image would be used on Healthcare.gov this summer, but never expected issues with the website to cause complications at home. Speaking to ABC, she said that the actions of critics who have capitalized on the website’s homepage to poke fun at the program and its seemingly ever-expanding list of flaws amounted to “some form of bullying.”

"I mean, I don't know why people should hate me because it's just a photo,” she told ABC. “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.”

When Healthcare.gov went live on October 1, it was quickly lampooned in the media after a surge of would-be applicants crippled the servers used by the government and made applying for mandated health insurance an impossibility for many. It soon became clear that the problem didn’t end with just a traffic issue, though, and the online ACA marketplace has since been mocked endlessly for just about everything under the sun.

As the de facto face of Obamacare, Adriana said she quickly became the target of ridicule as well.

I'm glad that my son is not old enough to understand, because you know whatever happens to you, it hurts them too,” she said.

Adriana’s image graced television screens across the world as news shows pounced on the opportunity to tackle the president’s health care mandate.

"They didn't ruin my life. I still have a job, I'm still married," Adriana said. "That didn't really crush me to the ground. I'm fine. Now I laugh about it."

Then two weeks ago, she said, her likeness was removed from the website.

We transitioned to new graphics because we believe they provide a better way to visually reinforce key information to users about options for applying at this point in time,” a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services explained to ABC.

"That was a relief," Adriana said.  "They took the picture down. I wanted the picture down, and they wanted the picture down. I don't think anybody wanted to focus on the picture."

As a native Colombian who has lived legally in the US with her family for six years, Adriana is currently eligible to enroll for health insurance under Obamacare. According to ABC, however, she hasn’t signed up for it and is neither in favor nor against the controversial health care law.