With Washington focused on the Obamacare website's continued failure and insurers dropping millions from their plans, President Obama traveled to one of the areas of the country where opposition to Obamacare is the strongest to offer a pep talk to the law's supporters.
Speaking to a synagogue in Dallas, Obama said the many benefits of the Affordable Care Act are getting lost in all the “politics and all of the chatter.”
Because of the law, children up to the age of 26 already can stay on their parents insurance plans, he said, and “families aren't going to go bankrupt just because someone in their family got sick.”
“The status quo just wasn't working for people,” he said.
The president said he is the first to admit that the "website woes" are driving him “crazy” and are unacceptable. Stressing that affordable, high-quality insurance is out there for people despite the difficulties with signing up on the website, he likened the situation to a great product being available in a store that people can't access.
“The cash registers don't work and there's not enough parking spaces – folks can't get through the door,” he said, assuring that by the end of the month he anticipates that the website will be working properly.
Obama also used the appearance to ramp up pressure on Texas Gov. Rick Perry to take advantage of the Obamacare provisions that allow states to expand Medicaid rolls.
“I know that sometimes this task is especially challenging here in the great Lone Star State,” he said, prompting a woman in the audience to shout “We’re up to the task!”
No state needs to expand their Medicaid participants more than Texas, Obama said.
“Here in just the Dallas area, 133,000 people who don’t currently have health insurance would immediately get health insurance without even having to go through the website” if Texas would just expand Medicaid, he said.
He noted that neighboring states have done that because “this is a no-brainer.” Arkansas, alone, he said, cut the number of uninsured by 14 percent in the first month by expanding Medicaid, and Oregon cut its uninsured by 10 percent.
Roughly 150 people filled the synagogue's social hall, which was festooned with hand-painted banners that read “Affordable Health Care” in big blue letters. The White House said the crowd was filled with local volunteers who are helping consumers learn about and enroll in the federal exchanges.
Later at a fundraiser for Senate Democrats at the home of Dallas lawyer Peter Kraus, Obama made several allusions to Ted Cruz, the Texas Tea Party-backed senator who led the charge for the government shutdown in a failed effort to try to defund or delay Obamacare.
While Obama said there are "a whole lot of good and decent Republicans," he said the party is captive to a more radical element that forced the shutdown.
“Right now there’s a group that – and a few of them are from Texas – who just aren’t willing to do the hard work and compromise necessary to move the country forward," he said.
In opening remarks, host Lisa Kraus was more direct in labeling Cruz and others as a "reckless" band of lawmakers and thanking Obama for standing up to them.
"I want to personally thank you for standing up to this faction and for saying, 'No, you can't," she said. "'No, you can't shut down the government because you don't like a law."
The president reiterated his desire for Texas to expand Medicaid and referred to Perry's resistance as "bullheadedness."
“It’s a good deal for the state of Texas … The only reason we’re not doing it is ideology," he said.
Those attending the dinner at the Kraus home paid $15,000 to attend.
This story was first posted on Nov. 6 at 9:45 p.m.