Portland teen’s Obamacare letter featured by campaign

Posted July 18, 2012, at 11:48 a.m.
Last modified July 18, 2012, at 12:09 p.m.

Margo Arruda's letter to the president

Dear Mr. President,

I'm 17 and will be a freshman in college in the fall. On a day like this, I feel the need to thank you for Obamacare. You see, when I was 9 years old, on the Fourth of July, I was diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes. It was something I couldn't help, and I've been terrified of what would happen when I got out of college and needed to find a job. I was scared that I wouldn't be able to get a job with health insurance, and then I would be in serious trouble. I almost let this fear drive me into studying for a career that I never wanted.

But with Obamacare, I know that I'll never be denied insurance because of my pre-existing condition. I'm free to pursue a career in English literature like I've always wanted. Becoming an adult is scary enough without the fear of diabetes and all the issues that come with it looming over my head.

Thank you for making the future just a little less scary. Thank you for making it easier to pursue my dreams. I cannot find words to tell you how much it means to me. By the election, I will be old enough to register to vote. You've got my vote. Thank you for enacting change I can believe in.

— Margo, Maine

PORTLAND, Maine — Though she’s just 17, Margo Arruda believes she knows what’s at stake in the ongoing national debate about health care.

Diagnosed with diabetes at age 9 — “That’ll make you grow up fast,” she quipped — Arruda was moved to post a letter on the Obama campaign’s website shortly after the Supreme Court upheld the president’s signature policy accomplishment.

“”I never, ever thought anyone would read that letter,” she said emphatically on Tuesday. “Even if no one ever saw it, it’s good karma, I guess,” was her thought in posting it.

But not only was it read, it was featured on the campaign website for a week and was posted on a campaign blog.

“I was woken up by this phone call,” Arruda recalled, with the voice of a woman identifying herself as being with the president’s re-election campaign. She said, “We got your letter and we loved it,” Arruda recalled, which quickly brought her fully awake. She readily gave permission for the letter to be used on the site.

“It was pretty sweet. I posted it all over Facebook,” she said. Apparently, the site gets a lot of Web traffic. An uncle who lives in England, with whom she does not have regular contact and who is not one of her Facebook “friends,” spotted the letter on the Obama campaign site and contacted her.

Since she was diagnosed on a Fourth of July with Type I, or juvenile diabetes, a disease which involves a genetic predisposition triggered by a virus, Arruda said the anniversary of that day brings difficult emotions.

“I usually get in a weird kind of funk at that time of year,” she said, but the Supreme Court’s June 28 ruling boosted her mood. And she wanted those responsible for creating the comprehensive health insurance overhaul to know it mattered — “that what they did meant something to someone.”

Among the components of the law that apply to Arruda are that she can stay on her parents’ health insurance until she is 26, and after that, she can’t be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition.

“That is a huge thing,” she said of the law’s protection.

Arruda lived in Rockland where she attended the small, private Watershed School, but the family moved to Portland last year and she completed her senior year at Casco Bay High School. She will attend the University of Southern Maine in the fall and plans to major in English literature.

Earlier, she considered becoming a nurse to ensure that she had good health insurance. Her mother is a nurse.

“I had convinced myself to be a nurse, even though I don’t like sick people,” she said. Now, feeling more confident about having insurance, she plans to earn a doctoral degree and teach.

Arruda was an Obama fan in 2008, and remembers talking about the candidate with a friend. She turns 18 in October, and will be able to vote for the president in her first election, a choice she is enthusiastic about making.