President Obama will attempt to shift the political conversation away from the glitch-filled rollout of the Obamacare website to the merits of his health law, traveling to Dallas, Texas on Wednesday, the first stop in a three-city trip.
Obama will meet with canvassers and so-called “navigators” at Temple Emanu-El, a Reform congregation, hoping to showcase the ways people can sign up for Obamacare other than through healthcare.gov.
The administration has been on the defensive not just over the problem-plagued website, but also Obama’s false claim that all Americans could keep their health plans under Obamacare if they liked them.
In traveling to Dallas, Obama will highlight a city with one of the nation’s highest rates of uninsured residents — and visit a state where Republican Gov. Rick Perry has refused to accept Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.
“This isn’t a political issue, this is about making sure people where they live have access to good, affordable health care,” David Simas, a White House adviser, told reporters in a call previewing the trip. “Put politics aside and do not deny people health care out of ideology and politics.”
Democratic San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro on the call said Texas should participate in the Medicaid expansion.
“We see folks who have to use the emergency room essentially as their primary care physician. If it makes sense anywhere to expand Medicaid, it makes sense in Texas,” he said.
Republican governors refusing the Medicaid expansion counter that states will ultimately have to pay the tab for the rise in people receiving government-subsidized health insurance.
Obama’s trip to Dallas also serves another purpose: raising money. The president will appear at a pair of Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee fundraisers on Wednesday.
Obama will also travel to New Orleans, La., on Friday for an event to promote his economic proposals, before flying to Miami, Fla., for another pair of Democratic fundraisers.
From a messaging perspective, the White House though is hoping to use the next few days to prove that healthcare.gov has not become an albatross for the administration. But for better or worse, health care will receive the brunt of the White House’s attention in coming weeks and months.
White House chief of staff Denis McDonough met Tuesday with leaders of medical insurance companies to talk about the problems with healthcare.gov.
And White House press secretary Jay Carney has been unable to quell the controversy stemming from Obama's pledge that his health care plan would not force Americans to lose their current insurance coverage.
“The provision, I think, within the Affordable Care Act was the manifestation of the president's promise, that if you had a plan that you liked, you could keep it,” Carney said on Tuesday.
Supporters of the law in Texas were forced to explain whether the technical problems with the Obamacare website would cause interested consumers to turn away from the enrollment process in frustration.
“I don’t think people are losing interest at all,” Texas State Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, insisted during the White House call. “There is time [to sign up for the public exchanges].”