On Dallas Visit, President Obama Acknowledges Issues, But Promises Results

Protestors sit on Northwest Highway and wait for President Barack Obama Wednesday afternoon.
Protestors sit on Northwest Highway and wait for President Barack Obama Wednesday afternoon.

For years, Frances Minkowitz worked as an emergency room doctor at New York’s Kings County Hospital, helping Brooklyn’s sick, injured, or pregnant. Born in the Depression, she saw first-hand what quality care can provide a soul, and navigated the ins and outs of healthcare pricing.

She moved to Dallas 15 years ago to be near her daughter, her arthritis making stairs all but impossible.

On Wednesday afternoon, she sat on the corner of Northwest Highway and Hillcrest Road, holding a sign that read “Impeach Obama.”

Obamacare “will be a commotion, a catastrophe, a terrible thing,” she said, a bandana covering her head to fight the wind. “…it’s pure mass hypnosis.”

President Barack Obama visited Dallas Wednesday, hoping to quell the fears and doubts of people like Minkowitz. He visited Temple Emanu-El to praise the efforts of volunteers and trained navigators who are working through Dallas Area Interfaith—a coalition of several dozen churches and schools—to help people learn about the Affordable Care Act.

“People had talked about how we were going to make sure that everybody had affordable, quality healthcare, but through Democratic and Republican presidents and Congresses, we couldn’t get it done,” Obama said. “The reason is it’s hard. It’s a big chunk of the economy. A lot of people—even if they don’t like what is going on—are always nervous about change. It’s always a challenge.”

Obama acknowledged the issues with healthcare.gov—”Now I’m the first to say the first month I’ve not been happy with [the rollout]”—but said the frustrations will all be worth it in the end.

“We are going to get this done,” he said. “And when we do, when we do, not if, but when we do, you’re going to have families all across this great state of Texas who are going to have the security and the well-being of high-quality, affordable health insurance.”

The president wrapped up his remarks after about 15 minutes, then shook hands with volunteers and supporters.

The trip was also intended as a nudge to Gov. Rick Perry, who has adamantly opposed the expansion of Medicaid, a major tenet of the president’s signature law. Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins—one of the most ardent supporters of the Affordable Care Act in Dallas, and perhaps Texas—said the governor’s reluctance to expand Medicaid, as other Republican-led states are beginning to do, is the wrong move.

“Our state that prides itself on rugged individualism and self-reliance says we don’t want to participate in a program that would allow people who currently can’t afford health coverage to purchase their own health coverage,” Jenkins said Tuesday. “We would rather them go to county hospitals in places like Dallas and have the taxpayers pay the full cost of their inefficient and expensive care. That really makes no sense.”

White House spokesman Jay Carney echoed Jenkins’ sentiments Wednesday.

“We’re obviously in discussion with governors and legislators from states around the country that have not yet decided to expand their program,” he said to a group of reporters at Love Field. “Citizens of Texas seem to, based on results of [a recent Texas Tribune 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 added that the trip to Dallas wasn’t an attempt to divert attention from healthcare.gov’s faulty rollout, saying, “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.”

Perry, in prepared remarks, disagreed.

“President Obama deceived the American people by promising that anyone who liked their health care plan could keep it, but millions of Americans are now discovering that simply isn’t true,” the governor said. “Now, he’s coming to Texas in a desperate attempt to salvage his ill-conceived and unpopular program from a Titanic fate by preaching expansion of the same Medicaid system he himself admits is broken…Mr. President, Texans aren’t the reason Obamacare is crumbling; Obamacare is the reason Obamacare is crumbling.”

Temple Emanu-El’s campus was teeming with police Wednesday afternoon, as police cruisers sat in every entrance, alley, or street up and down Hillcrest Road. Police on horseback patrolled the grounds, and a series of 18-wheelers formed a line on the south side of the temple’s parking lot, blocking the view from Northwest Highway.