The face of the ill-fated launch of ObamaCare belongs to a Maryland woman who didn't earn a dime for her trouble and, despite being eligible, hasn't even tried to enroll in the president's signature health insurance program.
In exclusive comments to ABC News, the smiling brunette identified only as “Adriana,” who previously adorned the Affordable Care Act’s website, said cruel comments online linking her to the website's well-chronicled problems amounted to cyberbullying. A married mom from Maryland, she became known as "Glitch Girl," and several spoofs photoshopped the expression on her face to go with satirical versions of the site.
“I mean, I don’t know why people should hate me because it’s just a photo,” Adriana, who is a Colombian national applying for citizenship, told ABC News. “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.
“They have nothing else to do but hide behind the computer,” Adriana said. “They’re cyberbullying … I’m here to stand up for myself and defend myself and let people know the truth.”
When Healthcare.gov launched on Oct. 1, offering Americans health insurance via federally-operated exchanges, it was Adriana’s smiling face that greeted visitors of the website. Her identity instantly became the target of reporters nationwide, particularly after White House officials refused to divulge her name. And as frustration with the maligned website mounted, she was quickly mocked online as “Glitch Girl” and became fodder for late-night comedians.
Adriana’s saga began when she emailed a contact at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services — the agency responsible for the rollout of the Affordable Care Act — about having photographs of her and her relatives taken in exchange for allowing the photos to be used to market the new health care law. She was not paid, ABC News reports.
Adriana, who has lived in the United States for more than six years, is currently a permanent resident applying for citizenship. She lives in Maryland with her 21-month-old son and husband of more than six years. Both her husband and son are U.S. citizens, she told ABC News.
But despite being eligible for health insurance via the Affordable Care Act, Adriana said she has not signed up for it and is neither in favor of it nor against it. Nevertheless, she was stunned by the vitriolic reaction prompted by her smiling face.
“Like I said, it was shocking. It was upsetting. It was sad. We were having a hard day when we read all this,” she continued. “And in a way, I’m glad that my son is not old enough to understand because whatever happens to you, it hurts them, too.”
Adriana said she was relieved when her photo was removed from the website roughly two weeks ago.
“I wanted the picture down, and they wanted the picture down,” she said. “I don’t think anybody wanted to focus on the picture.”
The photograph was removed because “Healthcare.gov is a dynamic website,” a Department of Health and Human Services told ABC News.
"The individuals in the images that we used for the launch of the website redesign in June and through the beginning of open enrollment signed standard releases and understood how their images would be used," the spokesperson said. "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."
Despite being targeted online, Adriana said she has been able to move past the initial controversy.
“They didn’t ruin my life. I still have a job. I’m still married,” she said. “That didn’t really crush me to the ground. I’m fine. Now I laugh about it.”