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On eve of Obama's visit, White House keeping pressure on FL over Medicaid expansion


The White House lambasted governors in Louisiana and Florida for not expanding Medicaid -- as President Barack Obama plans to visit both states on Friday -- though he won't be addressing his rocky health care law rollout.

White House Deputy Senior Advisor David Simas said 848,000 people without insurance in Florida could get coverage immediately if Gov. Rick Scott agreed to expand the federal-state health care program for the poor. Another 265,000 uninsured could gain access to coverage in Louisiana if Gov. Bobby Jindal went along, Simas said.

"We believe that it is reckless that some governors are so determined to see that the health care law not succeed that they have even refused to expand Medicaid coverage for millions and millions of working people," Simas said.

Obama traveled to Dallas on Wednesday, pushing Texas Gov. Rick Perry to expand Medicaid. Nine Republican governors have agreed to expansions and Simas said the administration plans to keep pressing governors to do so.

Jindal -- who held a press conference Thursday to blast Obama's visit -- defended his decision not to accept the Medicaid expansion option under the Affordable Care Act.

"The reality is here in Louisiana we've cut taxes," Jindal said, according to the Times Picayune. "We've done things like invest in workforce training. We've cut people's regulations. We've made this a business-friendly state. I think there's a lesson there for the president."

The call included New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu -- whom Republicans noted is the brother of Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Democrat who has introduced legislation that would allow anyone with cancelled plans to keep their coverage -- as Obama had promised.

The mayor said he supported expanding Medicaid coverage --- and his sister's legislation, referring reporters to the senator for more information.

Obama will travel to the Port of New Orleans on Friday where the White House says he'll "discuss the importance of taking measures to grow the economy and create jobs by increasing our exports." 

He'll later fly to Miami for fundraisers for the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee.

During the same call, White House officials tapped Broward County Mayor Kristin Jacobs and Florida Representative Mark Pafford to keep the Medicaid tune playing. 

Simas said that an estimated 848,000 Floridians could gain coverage if the state’s elected leaders chose to expand Medicaid, something they refused to do during this year’s legislative session.

In Louisiana, Simas said, about 265,000 residents could gain coverage if the governor and legislature were to expand Medicaid.

Jacobs called Florida Gov. Rick Scott and the state legislature “wrong headed” for turning down Medicaid expansion. She said an estimated 392,000 Broward residents would gain access to health care if state leaders were to expand Medicaid.

“At the end of the day,’’ she said, “the people of Broward County should have access to expanded Medicaid, and just because our governor and legislature said ‘No’ once doesn’t mean they have to take that approach again.’’

Pafford, the incoming state house Democratic leader, said he suspects that next year’s election cycle, when Gov. Scott will be running for re-election, could lead to increased public pressure on elected officials to expand Medicaid.

He noted that Amanda Murphy, a Democrat, won a special election in October for a state house seat representing Pasco County, which Pafford called “the backyard’’ of Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, a Republican who has been staunchly opposed to expansion.

“Florida is in the midst of some change,’’ Pafford said, “in terms of an electorate that’s paying attention to things like healthcare. … This was a major issue.’’

Staff Writer Dan Chang contributed to this report