Obama talks economic development, health care reform in N.O. - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Obama talks economic development, health care reform in N.O.

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Pres. Obama makes stop in New Orleans to talk economic development; also chides Gov. Jindal for  not expanding Medicaid as part of health care reform. Pres. Obama makes stop in New Orleans to talk economic development; also chides Gov. Jindal for not expanding Medicaid as part of health care reform.

NEW ORLEANS - The White House called President Barack Obama's visit to the city Friday an economic development trip, but the president used some of his time at the microphone to chide Gov. Bobby Jindal and other Republican governors over their refusal to accept federal dollars to expand their Medicaid programs as part of the Affordable Care Act.

The president also praised Republican governors who have taken the funds and expanded Medicaid eligibility.

"Hello Big Easy," the president said to hundreds gathered at the Port of New Orleans during lunchtime.

As Obama stood next to the Mississippi River, he called for more government investment to boost U.S. exports, and create more jobs.

"This is one of the busiest port complexes in the entire world," the president said.

Port leaders said the facility's future would be even brighter if the Mississippi River were deepened to allow for larger vessels. They need help from Washington to make it a reality.

"If we go to 50 feet, the difference is basically $1 million per single ship-call in a given year," said Port C.E.O Gary LaGrange.

During his speech the president did not sidestep recent negative headlines about healthcare.gov.

"I wanted to go in and fix it myself, but I don't write code," Obama said of the myriad computer glitches.

He also addressed opposition to the requirement that most Americans have insurance by early next year.

"I know health care is controversial, so you know there's only going to be so much support we get on a bipartisan basis until it's working really well, and then they're going to stop calling it Obama care," said the president.

In New Orleans, Obama was clearly in friendly territory.

And with Jindal just feet away, the president called out the state for refusing to expand Medicaid eligibility as the Affordable Care Act allows.

"Here in Louisiana that would benefit about 265,000 people," Obama said. "We want to work with everybody - mayor, governor, whoever wants to work with us here in Louisiana to make sure that even if you don't support the overall plan, let's at least go ahead and make sure that the folks that don't have health insurance right now get it it through an expanded Medicaid. Let's make sure we do that. It's the right thing to do."

Jindal did not comment at the port, but issued a the following statement:

"We will not allow President Obama to bully Louisiana into accepting an expansion of Obamacare.

"We have rejected Obamacare's Medicaid expansion in Louisiana because it would cost Louisiana taxpayers up to $1.7 billion over the next ten years and move nearly 250,000 Louisianians from private coverage to Medicaid.

"The disastrous rollout of Obamacare is a case in point that we don't need top-down, one-size-fits-all federal mandates, and instead should continue to focus on health care solutions that make sense for Louisiana.

"Obamacare needs to be repealed. 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."

The national GOP issued a strong rebuke of the president just minutes after his speech concluded.

"President Obama's visit is a reminder of how he and Sen. Landrieu's policies are hurting families across the state," said RNC spokesman Ryan Mahoney. "ObamaCare has been a disaster for Louisiana. Nearly 100,000 Louisianans will lose their plans, costs are rising, and businesses are laying off workers. Sen. Landrieu may think skipping this event would distract Louisianans from her support of the president's failed policies, but it's her own record she should be worried about."

Landrieu flew to New Orleans on Air Force One with the president, but she did not accompany him to the port. Her office said Landrieu had a previously scheduled engagement in Lake Charles, but said that she talked to the president on the plane about the importance of flood insurance reform and thanked him for his assistance in getting federal disaster loans forgiven for many local municipalities.

Prior to the president's visit, some local business and political leaders hoped he would make an announcement about mitigating the impact of the Biggert-Waters Act.

"I do know that Sen. Landrieu and Rep. Richmond did have significant time with the president, and they did discuss National Flood Insurance Program, so I think mission accomplished," said Michael Hecht, CEO of GNO Inc.

Hecht said having the president give a nationally televised speech extolling the success at the port was "like a Super Bowl."

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