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Obama Visits Dallas, Promotes Health Act In Crucial State

Dallas Area Interfaith

President Obama made a whirlwind swing through Dallas on Wednesday, jetting in for fundraisers and a quick visit to health care navigators at Temple Emanu-El — where he made his pitch for Obamacare in person to Texans for the first time.

When the President took the stage at Temple Emanu-El, he thanked everyone – from Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and County Judge Clay Jenkins to the crowd of volunteers who have helped sign people up for health coverage across North Texas. Then, he admitted the roll out so far hasn’t been pretty.

“You’ve all heard about the website woes,” Obama said. “Nothing drives me more crazy than the fact that right now there is great insurance to be had out there, choice and competition. Where people can save money for a better product, except too many folks haven’t been able to get through the website.”

Obama said the administration is working overtime to get the website fixed, and reminded the audience that going online isn’t the only way to sign up.

“So the commitment that all of you, that congregations, that faith based groups are engaged in is critically important,” Obama said, “And it’s not going to stop even after the website is running perfectly. We’re still going to need all of you to be making these efforts.”

Why Texas

The Lone Star State, Obama said, has the most to gain from the Affordable Care Act.

Texas has the highest rate of uninsured people in the country — one in four adults lacks health coverage – and it is the largest Republican-led state that’s refused to loosen Medicaid eligibility requirements. More than one million people in Texas would qualify for health coverage if the state chose to expand Medicaid.

“You’re neighboring states have made that decision,” Obama said, referring to Republican governors in states like Michigan, Ohio, and Arizona. “Cause they look at it and say this is a no-brainer, why would we not want to take advantage of this?”

Governor Rick Perry has said expanding Medicaid would be too costly in the long run – even if the majority of the costs would be picked up by the federal government. Meanwhile, Dallas city officials and business and hospital groups across the state argue expanding Medicaid is not only the right thing to do from a humanitarian perspective, but the right thing to do financially. Here’s Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins speaking on a panel with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius last month:

“It’s not partisan politics, it’s a recognition that just this year folks, $650 million of your money will be spent on taking care of those without insurance at Parkland Hospital. In Tarrant County it’s $419 million. You spend more tax dollars at taking care of the uninsured than all other county services combined,” Jenkins said.

Dallas County has at least 650,000 uninsured residents. And while Obama’s five hours in town won’t be enough to help sign that many people up for health coverage, he promised he’d be there in spirit.

“Until we get this done and everybody in Texas and everybody all across this country has the affordable health care that they need,” Obama said.

Lauren Silverman was the Health, Science & Technology reporter/blogger at KERA News. She was also the primary backup host for KERA’s Think and the statewide newsmagazine  Texas Standard. In 2016, Lauren was recognized as Texas Health Journalist of the Year by the Texas Medical Association. She was part of the Peabody Award-winning team that covered Ebola for NPR in 2014. She also hosted "Surviving Ebola," a special that won Best Long Documentary honors from the Public Radio News Directors Inc. (PRNDI). And she's won a number of regional awards, including an honorable mention for Edward R. Murrow award (for her project “The Broken Hip”), as well as the Texas Veterans Commission’s Excellence in Media Awards in the radio category.