BATON ROUGE, LA (WVUE) - President Barack Obama took the stage Thursday before a crowd of hundreds at Mckinley Senior High School in Baton Rouge.
The school is located in a poor neighborhood, and many residents thought they would never have a chance to see a presidential motorcade, let alone the leader of the free world up close.
In addressing the standing room-only crowd, the president praised newly inaugurated Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards for embracing Medicaid in the state expansion, which is in line with the federal health care reform law, considered the president's signature piece of legislation.
"This week he took a bold and wise step to expand Medicaid…It was the right thing to do, and by the way, it will actually help the state's finances," Obama said.
A day before the president's arrival, Edwards signed his first executive order which set in motion an increase in the number of Louisiana residents who will be able to receive the federal and state government Medicaid insurance. Edwards said more than 350,000 people will benefit because they make too little to buy insurance on their own, but earned too much to qualify for Medicaid as the eligibility rules currently stand.
Even before the president spoke, the White House announced that Obama would propose that Louisiana and other states just now expanding Medicaid get a full three years of 100 percent federal funding. As it stands, funding for Louisiana would begin dropping below 100 percent next year, but never below 90-percent for future years of the expansion.
Governor Jindal refused to expand Medicaid because he said it would eventually cost the state millions. In praising Gov. Edwards, the president took a shot at the previous administration.
"Everybody needs to get behind him because it's not going to be easy. He came in a little like I came in, gotta clean up some stuff," said the president.
Obama also talked about job growth and the need for more tax breaks for low wage earners.
"He also wanted to talk about citizen involvement, criminal justice reform, which I take pride in helping him lead. So we're working," said Congressman Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans.
The president also urged students in the audience to commit to their books.
"Unless you are one in a million, you'd better be working hard, you'd better be studying," he said.
"The president really touched on some significant things," said New Orleans Sen. Troy Carter, D-New Orleans.
And although the president has traveled to New Orleans many times, it was his first visit to Baton Rouge.
"I been trying to pack all my fun trips into my last year. And although I missed the Tigers beating Ole Miss last night, maybe I'll come back for football season," he said.