GarCo resident recalls poignant moment with Trump
Donald Trump wasn’t always Carrie Couey’s pick for president.
But the candidate she ended up voting for in November made quite the impression on her when he clasped her hand at the White House Monday and appeared to feel her pain when it comes to the troubles she has experienced under the Affordable Care Act.
The poignant moment, as Trump met with several Americans struggling under what’s also known as Obamacare, was captured in a widely published Associated Press photo. And Couey, a Silt-area rancher, was still getting her head around the surreal encounter with the new president after her return to Colorado Tuesday.
“It was an emotional moment because everybody who listened was attentive and they were very respectful, and I’m not sure what I was expecting but I was not expecting that from somebody who has the highest office in the land,” Couey said.
Couey and others visited with Trump as he and the Republican-controlled Congress are seeking to replace Obamacare.
She said she’s not entirely sure how it came to be that she was invited to speak about her family’s health care situation, except that she and her husband Kelly have been very vocal about it.
“I had reached out to our elected officials starting at the county level going on up and had talked to them about all the different problems with this and I knew we weren’t alone, so I thought it was important to reach out.”
She said White House staff reached out to her through the Department of Health and Human Services to be a part of Monday’s event.
Colorado’s mountain region has some of the highest health insurance premiums in the nation, and Couey’s family — which includes six children, four of them still at home — has been among those who have paid the price. She said that before the Affordable Care Act the family was paying about $1,000 a month for health care.
The family’s latest plan — which Couey said was dropped in December, the fourth time that has happened to the family — cost more than $3,000.
After briefly sharing her challenges with Trump, who was sitting beside her, he reached out to take her hand and said assuringly, “It’s all right, don’t worry, don’t worry.”
Said Couey, “At the time, and you might be able to tell from the expression on my face, I was trying to fight back tears because I could not believe somebody would give me that moment.”
Couey is an active Republican, and currently the chair of the Garfield County Republican Party. She said she didn’t support Trump in the Republican primary.
“However, I was very pleased to vote for him in the general (election) because my alternative was Hillary Clinton,” she said.
She said her family’s challenges are magnified because her 13-year-old son is severely autistic. Having to spend so much on health insurance means the family has less money to spend on him for things like driving him to therapy, she said. She said last year the family spent $52,000 on health care costs, between premiums, deductibles, what’s not covered and the cost of driving her son for care.
She is hopeful about the changes Trump and Republicans are planning.
“I don’t believe the situation can get any worse,” she said.
She said she has friends in the same situation, and it felt good to be able to voice their common concerns. And after having had the chance to see Trump meet with her and other constituents in the White House to hear their concerns and take them to the Oval Office for photos, she came away feeling that he has a desire to reach out to the average citizen.
“He was easy to be around. It was interesting that he seemed so down-to-earth and humble around regular people,” Couey said.