PORTSMOUTH, N.H. (AP) - It didn't take long for the friendly-lookingyoung woman whose face was splashed across HealthCare.gov to spiral fromsmiling stock photo to laughingstock. As it scrambles to correctproblems with the website, the Obama administration is now asking peoplewho have successfully purchased health insurance to let their picturesbe used instead.
Two of them told The Associated Press they found the site easy tonavigate, were happy with the plans they purchased and were eager toshare their stories in any format, including becoming the new face ofthe health care overhaul.
Not long after she enrolled on Oct. 3, Deborah Lielasus of Portsmouthwas contacted by the Department of Health and Human Services and askedto appear both in a video describing her experience and in photographsthat could replace the stock photo. She agreed, in part, to set anexample for her children.
"I think it's important to show them that you shouldn't hide frombeing honest and being sincere and talking about something that youbelieve in," she said. "Although family members have said to me, 'Youdon't need this, don't do this, because you're just going to get hurt,' Ihave felt like it is important."
Opponents aren't impressed. "The White House should focus more onfixing their flawed law and less time trying to prove their law isn'tbroken," said Kirsten Kukowski, spokeswoman for the Republican NationalCommittee.
Since the problem-plagued site launched Oct. 1, the stock photo hasbecome the butt of jokes. The satirical newspaper The Onion posted analtered photo of the cover girl "visibly panicking," and others havedubbed her "Glitch Girl."
The department declined to comment specifically on whether Lielasus'picture will have a place on the HealthCare.gov home page, on which thestock photo has been replaced by icons representing various enrollmentmethods. It also declined to comment on the broader marketing campaign,which so far includes posting video of Lielasus and another person onsocial networks, along with a dozen or so images and quotes praising thehealth care law.
Since her video was posted, Lielasus has been criticized in newsreports, online comments and personal emails for describingHealthCare.gov as easy to use even though she didn't enroll until threedays after the site launched. But she wasn't sitting at her desk for 36hours straight - she spent about an hour total over those three days -and once on the site, it was easy to navigate, she said.
"I'm not a fool," she said. "I saw that there were issues logging onand staying logged on, but I also saw that the site itself, once they'reable to overcome those problems, is going to be a really user-friendly,attractive site that people of all ages and technical abilities aregoing to be able to manage."
In Orlando, Fla., 22-year-old Daniel McNaughton said his experiencewas similar. Like Lielasus, McNaughton said it was a Facebook post abouthis experience with HealthCare.gov that caught the administration'sattention and led to his participation in the online video.
McNaughton, a student at Valencia College, said he will be paying $70per month for a plan that covers "anything I could possibly need."That's about what he's paying now for a catastrophic plan that coversonly three doctor visits per year. McNaughton said he looks forward tonot having to guess whether he needs antibiotics for the sinusinfections he gets every winter.
"I won't have to ration my doctor's visits," he said. "It gives me good peace of mind."
He told administration officials it was "more than OK" with him if they wanted to use his picture on HealthCare.gov.
"I think it would be a good thing to put my picture or others who'veenrolled," he said. "It might make it easier for people to relate towhat's going on with the exchange."