By Mark Felsenthal
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama will try on Friday to shift the national conversation to economic growth from anger over insurance policy cancellations under his signature healthcare law, as he visits the Port of New Orleans.
The day after Obama said in a nationally televised interview he was sorry some Americans were dropped by their health plans because of changes mandated by the Affordable Care Act, he will tour a busy cargo and cruise ship port, the White House said.
He will again deliver the message that the United States should spend more on its roads, bridges and ports as a way to create jobs and strengthen U.S. firms through increased trade.
He will speak after the government said on Friday that employers added 204,000 jobs in October despite a 16-day government shutdown, although the jobless rate ticked up to 7.3 percent.
Despite the surprisingly strong employment report, the White House estimated that there would have been 120,000 more jobs created in the month if not for the shuttering of government offices.
The administration has repeatedly said that the economy would be growing more rapidly and job growth would be more robust without the shutdown, prompted by Republican efforts to defund or delay the healthcare law, known as Obamacare. However, the jobs report suggested the impact of the shutdown on the economy was slighter than many had thought.
The Mississippi River port will give an Obama an appropriate setting to talk about his proposal to spend $50 billion to repair and upgrade the nation’s infrastructure and efforts to expand trade.
The president “believes that exports are central to our national economy and has made increasing exports a major focus for his administration,” the White House said in a statement.
But Obama’s efforts to press Congress for more spending to strengthen economic growth will be overshadowed by lingering questions about Obamacare.
The botched rollout of the online signup process for insurance was the first major problem for the program, which aims to extend access to healthcare for millions of uninsured Americans by offering insurance at competitive prices.
A second snag has been a spate of insurance cancellations despite Obama’s pledge that consumers could keep their existing health plans if they wanted them.
The setbacks have given ammunition to the law’s many foes and skeptics and raised doubts whether the healthcare plans can attract enough healthy young people to keep the costs of insurance low.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, a Republican, will be at the port when Obama delivers his remarks. But Jindal made clear on Thursday his disagreement with Obama on healthcare and other issues.
“Obamacare is not smart policy and will not work,” he said. “The website is merely the tip of the iceberg here.”
Jindal also took issue with Obama’s prescription for more spending to repair infrastructure.
“We keep increasing spending, adding entitlements, adding regulations, and adding taxes,” Jindal said. “If the president wants to grow the American economy, he’s got to force government to do just the opposite.”