U.S.

Ted Cruz's anti-'Obamacare' poster child likes the health care law

College student cited in senator's talkathon says Cruz should read less Dr. Seuss, spend more time on health care policy

Rutgers student John Connelly, right, says Sen. Ted Cruz misused his name to denounce the Affordable Care Act.
Andrew Foltz Morrison

John Connelly was not watching when Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said his name during Cruz’s 21-hour marathon speech on the Senate floor earlier this week to rally fellow Republicans against the Affordable Care Act.

Connelly, a 22-year-old student at Rutgers University, heard about it only the next day when a friend messaged him on Facebook to tell him the news — and he was not exactly thrilled. In fact, he is supportive of the law and has already reaped some of the benefits of the ACA, often referred to by its detractors as “Obamacare.”

Cruz had gotten the student's name from an article in The Wall Street Journal about soaring youth unemployment, and read a passage about Connelly’s circumstances aloud to illustrate the kind of world President Barack Obama’s policies, health care law included, had created.

“John Connelly thought he was on the right track in life. The son of a New Jersey auto mechanic, he was the first in his family to go to college when he enrolled in Rutgers in 2009,” Cruz read. “Four years later, the 22-year-old found himself $21,000 in debt, without a permanent job and sleeping on friends' couches in New Jersey and Brooklyn.”

Those facts were true, Connelly said, but Cruz didn’t have the context quite right.

“I guess he didn’t read it very well,” said Connelly, who found a grant that allowed him to re-enroll in school.

Connelly has indeed struggled with managing his debt and affording tuition, but he doesn’t blame those circumstances on the Obama administration.

In fact, he grew up in a working-class union household and describes his politics as “left of most of the people in the Democratic Party on social and economic issues.” He thinks a single-payer system would be preferable to the Affordable Care Act but appreciates the provisions of the law that have helped him out already.

His father’s union-provided health insurance still covers him, thanks to the provision of the ACA that allows children to stay on their parents’ plan until the age of 26. Private insurers are no longer allowed to deny his younger sister coverage, even though she suffers from a seizure disorder that qualifies as a pre-existing condition.

“It is not the giant burden on the future as Cruz painted it,” Connelly said.

He added that he doesn’t have much of a high opinion of the senator who held him up as a poster child for all that was wrong with the Obama economy.

“Maybe he should’ve spent less time reading Dr. Seuss and more time looking into the policies that he’s talking about,” Connelly said, referring to Cruz reading from Dr. Seuss' children's book "Green Eggs and Ham" during his speech.

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