White House press secretary Jay Carney on Wednesday said that President Obama’s trip to Dallas to deliver an address on health care reform was not an effort to distract attention from the botched rollout of Obamacare’s insurance exchanges.
“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,” Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One during the trip to Dallas.
The president’s visit to Dallas comes as the administration works to sell the public on the benefits of the health care law despite the rocky rollout of the new insurance exchanges.
The website enrolling consumers in federal insurance marketplaces has been plagued with technical problems and administration officials have conceded they expect initial enrollment numbers to be low.
Administration officials have also been on the defensive over insurers cancelling many plans, after Obama promised the public repeatedly that they would be able to keep their coverage if they liked it even under Obamacare.
Conservative critics say that Obama misled the public, but the White House says his comments only meant to refer to plans that would not change under the law’s new requirements. Obama has also said that those who lose their coverage will be able to sign up for plans offering more benefits at a lower cost through Obamacare.
Carney said the Dallas visit gave Obama the opportunity to take his message to a state with a large number of uninsured people and said polls showed that while the health care law is unpopular overall in Texas, many specific elements are favored by the public, including Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry is one of many GOP governors refusing to expand their Medicaid rolls through Obamacare, arguing that states will be stuck with the bill.
Carney said governors who had accepted the Medicaid expansion were “focused on their constituents, and that’s a good thing, and that’s the right thing.”
“We’re obviously in discussion with governors and legislators from states around the country that have not yet decided to expand their program,” he continued.
“Citizens of Texas seem to, based on results of that poll, endorse the idea. While it’s perhaps the case that Texas Republicans might not be responsive to the views of a Democratic president, a Democratic administration, they may at least take into account to some degree the views of their constituents,” Carney said.
Obama is also slated to speak at two Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee events later Wednesday night in Dallas before returning early Thursday morning to Washington.