The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

November 6, 2013

Tweaking Perry, Obama pitches health care in Texas

WASHINGTON (AP) — Beset by hard-to-keep promises and a massive website failure, President Barack Obama is promoting his embattled health care law in the state with the highest rate of uninsured Americans, which has also been politically hostile to the signature initiative of his presidency.

Obama was traveling to Dallas on Wednesday to encourage participation in the federal insurance marketplace set up by the law. The trip to Texas comes a day after his administration tried to soothe anxious Democratic senators by reporting improvements in the troubled online enrollment system.

Meant to highlight the law's benefits, Obama's visit will also underscore the obstacles the law faces in Republican states where governors such as Texas' Rick Perry have refused to take advantage of a provision in the law that expands Medicaid to assist more of the working poor. More than 23 percent of Texas residents are uninsured.

David Simas, a White House adviser working on the law's implementation, said Obama intends to draw attention to those Republican governors who, unlike Perry, have agreed to expand Medicaid for their residents.

He said Obama will urge Texas' Republican leaders "to join conservative governors in other states, like Ohio and in Michigan and in Arizona, to put politics aside and not deny people health care out of ideology or politics."

Texas also is among the 36 states not providing their own insurance marketplaces, which means residents there must sign up through the federal website that stumbled badly upon its launch Oct. 1.

On Tuesday, Marilyn Tavenner, the head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services which is helping implement the law, told senators that repairs to the system were now permitting nearly 17,000 people to register each hour "with almost no errors."

Obama planned to visit Dallas' Temple Emanu-El, where volunteers and guides have been working with Dallas Area Interfaith to assist insurance consumers. He also plans to attend two fundraisers for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

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