Obama still has Natoma Canfield's letter framed on the wall of his personal library

President Barack Obama (l) Greets Cancer Survivor Natoma Canfield (seated) of Ohio After Delivering Remarks on the Affordable Care Act in the East Room of the White House in Washington Dc Usa 10 May 2013 Despite Being Cancer-free For More Than a Decade Natoma Canfield was Forced to Surrender Her Health Insurance Because She Couldn't Afford the Increasing Rates Before the Affordable Care Act was Passed United States Washington Usa Obama Health Care - May 2013
From left: Barack Obama and Natoma Canfield
| Credit: Michael Reynolds/EPA/Shutterstock

Barack Obama on Wednesday paid tribute to an Ohio woman, Natoma Canfield, whom he said he repeatedly looked to for inspiration during his push to pass the Affordable Care Act in 2010.

Canfield died at her home on Friday in Medina Township, Ohio, due to complications from leukemia. She was 61, The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported.

In December 2009, when Canfield was working as a cleaning person, she wrote a passionate letter to the White House pleading for lawmakers to help her and other Americans lessen their medical bills.

"I need your Health reform bill to help me!!!" she wrote to Obama then. "I simply can no longer afford to pay for my healthcare costs!!"

Canfield's letter explained that she was then being treated for cancer and facing rising medical bills. She told Obama that health insurance premiums rose 25 percent in 2009 and 4 percent in 2010, according to the Akron Beacon Journal.

"January will be my last month of insurance," she wrote.

Her letter was read at a White House briefing and Obama, now 59, repeatedly pointed to her story as an example for why he was pushing for the healthcare law.

Canfield's letter helped provide momentum toward the passage of the legislation that March, according to the Plain Dealer, and Obama kept the note near to his heart - hanging it up in the White House and then framing it on the wall of his personal library after leaving office in early 2013.

The former president paid Canfield tribute on Wednesday with messages across social media.

"Today, I'm thinking about her and her family, especially her sister Connie," Obama wrote on Instagram, alongside photos of the Canfield sisters visiting the White House and a picture of Natoma's framed letter.

"By telling her story, Natoma helped make a difference in the lives of so many like her, and she will remain an inspiration to me for years to come," he wrote.

President Barack Obama talks with Natoma Canfield, right, and her sister, Connie Anderson, in the Oval Office, Dec. 12, 2012. The letter Canfield sent the President in 2010 hangs on the wall in the background.
From left: Barack Obama meeting the Canfield sisters
| Credit: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Obama wrote that he took Canfield's letter and read it during a meeting with healthcare executives and later decided to hold a rally in support of the contentious legislation near Canfield's home in Ohio.

The former president wrote that Canfield's letter also ultimately persuaded her local congressman to vote "yes" in favor of passing the Affordable Care Act, which was divisive at the time but has grown increasingly popular even as it has since withstood numerous court challenges and Republican opposition.

Canfield and her sister Connie visited the White House in 2012, after she couldn't make it in 2010 due to her ongoing cancer treatment.

"I was able to thank her at the White House and show her where I hung the letter near the Oval Office," Obama recalled in his message on Wednesday, noting that her letter now hangs on the wall of his own library at home.

On Twitter, Obama wrote that he and former First Lady Michelle Obama were sending the Canfield family their condolences.

"By telling her story, Natoma Canfield helped us pass the Affordable Care Act," President Obama tweeted."She was an inspiration to me and so many others."