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Wed November 6, 2013
In Dallas, President Obama Defends Affordable Care Act
President Obama arrived in Dallas shortly before 5 p.m. Wednesday and left around 9 p.m. KERA provided updates on 90.1 FM, as well as this blog.
Update, 9:03 p.m.: Air Force One has left Dallas Love Field. President Obama spent four hours in Dallas, making a speech at Temple Emanu-El to talk with volunteers who are helping people sign up for health care through the Affordable Care Act. He expressed frustration that Healthcare.gov has experienced technical issues, but says the website is improving. Later, Obama appeared at two private fundraisers. KERA's Lauren Silverman covered the president's Dallas visit and has more details.
Update: Here's a video showing Obama's full remarks at Temple Emanu-El in Dallas.
Update, 6:25 p.m.: The Associated Press offers this dispatch of the president's remarks so far in Dallas:
President Barack Obama is comparing the problem-plagued federal health care website to a store that has a good product for sale and not enough cash registers to ring up the purchases.
Speaking to volunteers in Dallas, Obama says "nothing drives me more crazy" than knowing that good insurance plans are for sale under the Affordable Care Act, but people are having trouble getting onto the website to buy it.
The administration has promised that the HealthCare.gov website will work well for most Americans by the end of November.
Obama visited Texas on Wednesday to encourage the state to participate in the federal health insurance marketplace that was created under the law.
Texas has the highest rate of uninsured Americans the law was designed to help.
Update, 6:18 p.m.: Gov. Rick Perry says President Barack Obama came to Texas to try and keep the nation's new health care law from collapsing under its own weight. Texas has the highest rate of uninsured Americans, and Obama's visit is a slap at Perry, who has repeatedly refused to expand health coverage under Medicaid as part of the new law.
In a statement, Perry said the president was trying to "salvage his ill-conceived and unpopular program from a Titanic fate."
He noted that Medicaid already consumes a quarter of the state budget, and said Texas won't accept a "one-size-fits-all Washington mandate."
Perry added: "Texans aren't the reason Obamacare is crumbling. Obamacare is the reason Obamacare is crumbling."
Update, 5:52 p.m: The president acknowledged that Healthcare.gov can be frustrating at times. Despite that, he said: “We are going to get this done. And when we do, when we do, not if, but when we do, you’re going to have families all across this great state of Texas who are going to have … high-quality affordable health insurance.”
Obama credited efforts from area faith leaders to spread the word about signing up for health coverage. He also credited Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson.
“My main job here today is to say thank you,” Obama said. “All of you understand that there’s no state that actually needs this more than Texas.”
At 5:50 p.m., the president wrapped up his remarks and is mingling with the crowd, shaking hands.
Update, 5:47 p.m.: Obama is talking about getting over the hurdles of signing people up over the next several months: “If we get that done, when we get that done, then we will have created a stable system in which there’s no reason why people shouldn’t be getting health care in this country."
He said: "Now I’m the first to say the first month I’ve not been happy with [the website issues]. You’ve all heard about the website woes."
But Obama added: “Folks are working 24/7 to make sure that happens,” that the website is up and running.
Update, 5:40 p.m.: Obama tells the crowd at Temple Emanu-El: "People had talked about how we were going to make sure that everybody had affordable quality health care but through Democratic and Republican presidents and Congresses, we couldn’t get it done. The reason is it’s hard. It’s a big chunk of the economy. A lot of people even if they don’t like what is going on are always nervous about change. It’s always a challenge."
Update, 5:36 p.m.: President Obama is at Temple Emanu-El.
Update, 5:33 p.m.: The Dallas Morning News reports: "On Air Force One, White House press secretary Jay Carney said the president chose Dallas to talk about Obamacare because it’s one of the top 10 cities in terms of uninsured Americans."
"The figures Carney cited: 1.1 million people in the Dallas-Fort Worth area who are uninsured but eligible for help under Obamacare. Of those, 40 percent of them Latino – a politically significant data point, as Democrats eye eventual control of Texas — and about 550,000 with incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty line, which means they’re out of luck because of the state’s refusal to expand Medicaid.
“We can’t force them to expand. The Supreme Court ruled on this,” Carney said, insisting the president’s trip isn’t any sort of effort to shift focus from rollout problems. “I can promise you that whether or not the website worked we would be going to places like Dallas, where the education effort and outreach effort is underway, to reach these dense pockets of uninsured Americans.”
Update, 5:25 p.m.: Dozens of people are at Temple Emanu-El, waiting for President Obama to arrive. He plans on thanking "navigators" who are helping North Texans enroll into the health care program. Temple Emanu-El is which is working with members of Dallas Area Interfaith to spread the word about Obamacare.
Update, 5:14 p.m.: President Obama is in his limo and leaving Dallas Love Field. On the agenda: A visit to Temple Emanu-El to talk about Obamacare and to thank "navigators" who are helping North Texans enroll into the health care program. Later tonight, he'll attend fundraisers.
Update, 5:06 p.m.: KERA's Lauren Silverman, who's at Dallas Love Field, reports that the president has exited Air Force One. He’s on the tarmac and greeting about 50 or so invited guests. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings is at Obama’s side.
Update, 4:51 p.m.: Air Force One has landed at Dallas Love Field. President Obama is expected to spend a few hours in Dallas. Obama will be in Dallas to thank the “navigators” helping North Texans enroll in health care through the federal marketplace.
Update, 4:45 p.m.: President Obama plans to meet at Temple Emanu-El with around 75 volunteers from the Dallas Area Interfaith coalition, KXAS-TV (Channel 5) reports.
The group's created English/Spanish booklets called “Cut Your Costs for Health Insurance, Learn How the New Tax Credit Could Provide Financial Assistance for You." Members have also been helping educate North Texas about health care options.
“We're delighted he's here and we're delighted to be a part of it,” said Senior Rabbi David Stern at Temple Emanu-El. Stern said he's honored to host the President on Wednesday. The Jewish community is just one of many working to get the word out about the new health care exchanges. ...
Rabbi Stern sees the impact of [lack of insurance] on church members who don't have healthcare.
“We have folks who don't, folks with family members who don't. We're a multi-generational congregation with every conceivable health circumstance,” said Rabbi Stern.
Update, 4:41 p.m.: Both supporters and protesters have gathered outside Temple Emanu-El, where the president is expected to make a stop.
— KERA News (@keranews) November 6, 2013
Update, 4:39 p.m.: This was posted on President Obama's Twitter page:
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) November 6, 2013
Update, 4:31 p.m.: An explanation of the president's delay from Mark Knoller, CBS News correspondent:
Pres Obama's departure from WH delayed 50 minutes because bomb-sniffing dog reacted to vehicle parked at the nearby Ellipse.
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) November 6, 2013
The suspicious vehicle was cleared, Knoller said. "Occasionally the bomb-sniffing dogs react to anti-freeze," he posted on Twitter.
Update, 4:23 p.m.: President Obama is on Air Force One with Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, chairman of the effort to elect Democrats to the Senate, The Associated Press is reporting. In Dallas, the president is planning to encourage Americans to enroll in health care plans and also raise money at two fundraisers for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
The AP reports that earlier today, President Obama met with Senate Democrats facing re-election next year to discuss the problem-plagued health care rollout that could affect their races.
The White House confirmed Obama and Vice President Joe Biden met with 16 senators to describe fixes that are being made to the website for Americans to sign up for insurance under his signature health care law.
One attendee, Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, said Obama "didn't hesitate to accept responsibility for the issues that have slowed the law's implementation and laid out the White House's strategy for fixing them."
The Democrats familiar with the meeting say the senators told Obama stories they are hearing from their constituents about problems they are having enrolling. They said the tone of the meeting was still respectful and that the sense was that all their fates are tied.
Update, 4:19 p.m.: As we wait for the president to arrive, let's take a look at the latest on Obamacare. The Associated Press reports: "Republicans blistered Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Wednesday over the nation's controversial health care law, bluntly challenging her honesty, pushing for her resignation and demanding unsuccessfully she concede that President Barack Obama deliberately misled the public about his signature domestic program."
The AP story continues: "'We're not in it to just give you a rough time. We're in it to try and hopefully get it right,' said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, at a hearing where Republicans — all of whom had voted against 'Obamacare' — focused on the program's flawed sign-up website as well as costs, policy cancellations, security concerns and other issues.
"During two hours in the Senate Finance Committee witness chair, Sebelius parried some thrusts and listened impassively to others. Treated more gently by Democrats than Republicans, she said at one point: 'Clearly the opposition is still quite ferocious, and I'm just hoping that people understand what their options are, what their benefits could be and what their opportunities are.'
"She offered few if any concessions about a program she pointedly observed 'passed both houses of Congress, was signed by the president and upheld by the Supreme Court.'"
Lauren Silverman is waiting for the president to arrive at Dallas Love Field. Obama was scheduled to arrive shortly after 4 p.m., but Lauren reports that he's been delayed by an hour.
The president's trip to Dallas will include a stop at Temple Emanu-El — which is working with members of Dallas Area Interfaith to spread the word about Obamacare.
Obamacare has been facing lots of criticism in recent weeks, so the president hopes to focus on success stories while in Texas.
Other administration officials are fanning out across the country to rally support.
Obama will also be in Dallas to raise money tonight at a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee fundraiser.