The smiling woman who was once the face of the Affordable Care Act’s website has come out of the shadows to stand up to the “cyberbullying” she says she suffered after the law’s flawed kickoff.
Speaking exclusively to ABC News, Adriana, who asked that only her first name be used, said she was speaking out now to defend herself after weeks of enduring online lampooning.
“They have nothing else to do but hide behind the computer. They’re cyberbullying,” Adriana told ABC News’ Amy Robach.
“I’m here to stand up for myself and defend myself and let people know the truth,” she said.
On Oct. 1, 2013, when the ACA’s website launched to enroll Americans in health insurance through federally run exchanges, it was Adriana’s face that greeted them.
Dubbed the “enigmatic Mona Lisa of health care,” her face was soon mocked, Photoshoped, altered. She became the subject of late-night jokes, partisan hatred and intense speculation.
The saga of the photo started innocuously enough. Adriana responded to an email from someone at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency responsible for the Affordable Care Act’s rollout, about having photos of her and her family taken for free in exchange for allowing the photos to be used to market the new health care law. She was never paid.
She learned over the summer that her photo would be on healthcare.gov’s main page, but she didn’t realize it would become so closely associated with the problems of the glitchy website.
“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,” Adriana told ABC News.
Speculation swirled that Adriana might not be a legal resident of the United States, and therefore not even eligible for the health care exchanges. Adriana said she is a wife and mother who lives in Maryland with her 21-month-old son and husband of six and a half years. Her husband is a U.S. citizen, as is his her son. Adriana, who is Colombian, said she has lived legally in the U.S. for more than six years, is currently a permanent resident and is applying for citizenship.
Though she is eligible for healthcare through the ACA, Adriana says she hasn’t signed up for it, and is neither in favor nor against it.