President Obama used a campaign-style trip to Texas on Wednesday to rally liberals on his sputtering health care law, calling it a system of “universal health care” and calling out Texas Republicans for, he said, denying health insurance to 1 million state residents.
For decades, liberals have dreamed of a “universal health care” system in America and Mr. Obama used that phrase, which he rarely does, in telling a group of volunteers that, under his leadership, it has become a reality.
“We were able to get it done in part because of grass-roots folks like you that fought so hard to make sure we were able to deliver on universal health care,” the president told a group at Dallas’ Temple Emanu-El, where volunteers are working to educate residents about the health care exchange programs established under Obamacare.
“That’s what this is all about,” Mr. Obama said. “Ultimately, all the politics, all the chatter, sometimes leaves out the fact that the system we had, the status quo, just wasn’t working.”
Mr. Obama later took direct aim at two of the state’s most notable Republicans: Gov. Rick Perry and first-term Sen. Ted Cruz, accusing them of being blinded by “ideology.” At a $15,000-per-person Democratic Party fundraiser Wednesday evening, he blasted Mr. Cruz over the recent government shutdown and took shots at Mr. Perry for refusing to expand Medicaid, as Obamacare allows.
The president said there are a “whole lot of good and decent Republicans,” but suggested Mr. Cruz is not among them.
“Right now, there’s a group that — and a few of them are from Texas — who just aren’t willing to do the hard work and compromise necessary to move the country forward,” he said.
He never mentioned Mr. Cruz by name, but at one point referred to “one senator from Texas” when discussing the shutdown and the debate over raising the national debt ceiling.
Mr. Obama then turned his attention to Mr. Perry, saying the governor’s stance is nothing more than “bullheadedness.”
“It’s a good deal for the state of Texas. … The only reason we’re not doing it is ideology,” Mr. Obama said. “If the governor and the Legislature chose to do so, right now they could insure 1 million people right here in Texas.”
As a result of last year’s Supreme Court decision on Obamacare, states can opt out of Medicaid expansion, a key part of the health care reform law.
Although Mr. Obama’s health care law requires all Americans to buy insurance or face fines, the system is built on private companies offering coverage to individuals or groups of consumers and thus is far from the kind of Canadian or European system the phrase “universal health care” connotes. Such systems — also called “single payer” — usually consist of one national government entity paying for and providing care for all citizens.
Mr. Obama long has been a supporter of such a system, saying that, if he were starting from scratch, he would create a single-payer health care system for all Americans.
That option was never seriously considered either while Mr. Obama was campaigning or since took office, but some suspicious conservatives have said the Affordable Care Act was designed all along to be a step toward universal, single-payer health care.
Indeed, since the glitch-plagued HealthCare.gov went live Oct. 1, some liberal supporters of a single-payer system have claimed vindication in having said that a half-measure such as Obamacare wouldn’t work and that the U.S. needs to extend health care to all through existing programs such as Medicare.
“There’s a deep irony to this. Had Democrats stuck to the original Democratic vision and built comprehensive health insurance on Social Security and Medicare, it would have been cheaper, simpler, and more widely accepted by the public,” Robert Reich, secretary of labor under President Clinton and now a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, wrote in a recent blog for The Huffington Post.
• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at email@example.com.
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