President Barack Obama on Thursday urged more Americans to sign up for health coverage through the Affordable Care Act and called on Gov. Scott Walker to expand Medicaid in Wisconsin while visiting Milwaukee to congratulate the city for its high Obamacare enrollment numbers.
The president spoke in the gymnasium at Bruce-Guadalupe Middle School at the United Community Center on Milwaukee’s south side.
Milwaukee won the president’s “Healthy Communities Challenge,” which tracked Marketplace enrollment in 20 participating cities across the country to see which could make the largest gains during the open enrollment period.
Milwaukee signed up 89,000 new Marketplace plans, including 38,000 new enrollees, edging out Obama’s hometown of Chicago for the No. 1 spot.
“This city should be proud,” Obama said. “You did the best job of looking out for each other and taking care of each other. And I’m here to say congratulations.”
Obama warmed up at the UCC by joking about the weather and saying: “next time I think I should come for Summerfest — I hear it’s pretty fun.”
Air Force One landed in Milwaukee at 11:45 a.m. and the president was greeted by Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch.
The Milwaukee Bucks, who met with the president before arriving at the UCC, watched his speech from the gymnasium bleachers.
“These are some fine young men and I told them as long as they weren’t playing the (Chicago) Bulls, I’d root for them.” Obama said.
Responding to Republican criticism of the law, Obama said the Affordable Care Act has insured 20 million more Americans, led to 87,000 fewer deaths and achieved $20 billion in cost savings since it was signed six years ago.
“Even if you aren’t covered by Obamacare, your premiums, or your employer’s premiums, or your share of premiums have increased at a slower rate over these last three years than they have in the previous 50,” Obama said.
The president criticized Walker for not accepting federal money to expand state Medicare coverage and accused the governor of “denying Wisconsinites their ticket to health insurance.”
“By the way Milwaukee, while you worked your tails off to cover enough folks to fill Lambeau Field, your governor still refuses to expand Medicaid in this state,” Obama said. “We could cover another 21,000 Wisconsinites with the stroke of his pen.”
Laurel Patrick, Walker’s press secretary, issued a statement after Obama’s speech saying Walker has refused to accept federal dollars in order to protect taxpayers.
“If anyone thinks the federal government, which is currently $18 trillion in debt, will not renege on its future funding promises, they are not living in reality,” Patrick wrote. “The federal government cannot meet its current Medicaid obligations and in order to deal with this deficit, the Congressional Budget Office has offered Medicaid caps and members of both parties have proposed decreasing federal funding for Medicaid programs as potential options.”
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) released a statement Thursday calling for the Affordable Care Act to be repealed.
“For many, premiums, deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums have skyrocketed instead of being reduced by $2,500 per family per year as President Obama and other proponents of Obamacare also promised,” Johnson said in the statement. “We need to repeal and replace Obamacare with reforms that preserve patient freedom and choice, constrains cost increases, and improves access to higher-quality care.”
Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) flew back to Milwaukee from Washington D.C. on Air Force One with Obama.
“I am so proud of the people of Milwaukee for stepping up and taking responsibility for their health and the collective well-being of our community,” Moore said. “I’d like to thank President Obama for his leadership in providing all Americans with access to quality health care coverage and for recognizing Milwaukee’s commitment to ensuring healthy outcomes for everyone in our community.”