Obama spars with Louisiana governor over healthcare law

NEW ORLEANS Fri Nov 8, 2013 5:36pm EST

U.S. President Barack Obama talks about the importance of growing the U.S. economy while at the Port of New Orleans in Louisiana, November 8, 2013. REUTERS/Larry Downing

U.S. President Barack Obama talks about the importance of growing the U.S. economy while at the Port of New Orleans in Louisiana, November 8, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing

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NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - A trip by President Barack Obama to the Port of New Orleans on Friday was an opportunity for him to focus on the economy and divert attention from the troubled launch of his signature healthcare insurance program.

Instead, the visit turned into a spat over Obamacare with Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, a possible Republican presidential contender.

Jindal met Air Force One when it landed and attended Obama's speech to a crowd of about 650 people on a wharf on the Mississippi River.

Obama first delivered a pitch for the creation of jobs by fixing roads, dredging ports and modernizing the U.S. air traffic control system.

Then he took a veiled jab at Jindal for failing to support a key plank of the healthcare law.

Louisiana is one of 24 states that has refused federal funds to expand Medicaid to more low-income people, money that Obama said would help 265,000 people in the state gain access to health insurance.

"Even if you don't support the overall plan, let's at least go ahead and make sure that the folks who don't have health insurance right now and can get it through an expanded Medicaid, let's make sure we do that," Obama said.

That opened the door for Jindal to accuse Obama of trying to "bully" the state.

"We will not allow President Obama to bully Louisiana into accepting an expansion of Obamacare," Jindal said in a statement, saying the expansion would cost the state too much.

"The dysfunction of the website and the president's broken promises on being able to keep your health plan are just the tip of the iceberg in regards to the problems with this law," Jindal said.

Obama had repeatedly promised that Americans could keep their plans if they wanted, oversimplifying a clause in the law allowing some policies to be exempted.

In his speech, he repeated pledges to fix the malfunctioning Healthcare.gov website that is the main portal for enrolling in health insurance.

Obama's visit to New Orleans followed a television interview aired on Thursday, in which he apologized to Americans who were dropped by their health plans because of changes mandated by the Affordable Care Act.

The rest of his speech was a plea to Congress to focus on investing in infrastructure projects as it tries to work out a budget deal by a January deadline.

He urged Congress to include an infrastructure spending plan in a budget deal.

"I know if there's one thing that members of Congress from both parties want, it's smart infrastructure projects that create good jobs in their districts," he said.

He spoke after the U.S. government reported that employers added 204,000 jobs in October despite a 16-day government shutdown, although the jobless rate ticked up to 7.3 percent.

Despite the surprisingly strong report, the White House estimated that there would have been 120,000 more jobs created in the month had it not been for the government shutdown.

"There is no question that the shutdown harmed our jobs market. The unemployment rate still ticked up," Obama said.

After his speech, Obama flew to Miami, Florida and was to speak at two fundraisers for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and another for the Democratic National Committee.

Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, who faces a tough re-election race next year, traveled with Obama from Washington, but did not attend his event in New Orleans.

Obama said she was busy traveling within the state and a spokesman for Landrieu explained she was attending an event "that had been months in the making" in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Landrieu introduced legislation this week that would allow Americans to keep their existing health insurance plans, if they so choose, as Obama had promised.

(Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell. Writing by Roberta Rampton; editing by Christopher Wilson)

(This story was refiled to add dropped letter in Jindal quote in the tenth paragraph)

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Comments (54)
rustic36 wrote:
How IRONIC- shifting the debate from ”OBUMMERCARE” to the economy- – which like– – -SUCKS also, and has for the past five years. I have one word to answer his cry for more spending- – STIMULUS !And we all KNOW how that turned out. As Jindal said- -it is POLICY ”not” spending!

Nov 08, 2013 6:56am EST  --  Report as abuse
stambo2001 wrote:
Obamacare is a vacuum which will suck up thousands of dollars a year from the average middle-class household to pay for the ‘subsidized’ programs of the 46%. Household spending will go down as the result, it’s an easy forgone conclusion. Holidays will have to be cancelled or curtailed, people will have to buy cheaper food and clothing all in the name of protecting barrys ‘legacy’ achievement. Obamacare will become an economic nightmare in and of itself. No wonder he needs to get ahead of the ball, the remaining years of his presidency will be repairing the economic damage his lack of foresight created.

Nov 08, 2013 7:45am EST  --  Report as abuse
ScouterT wrote:
Obamacare “is” impacting “my” ECONOMY! So the apology and attempt to change the discussion still results in the same thing. Less money in my pocket to spend. so when Obama brings me into the ranks of the working poor I guess he doesn’t much care what happens to me.

Nov 08, 2013 7:52am EST  --  Report as abuse
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