President Barack Obama visited health care hub Nashville, Tennessee, on Wednesday to push state governments to expand the Medicaid health program for the poor.
The president's health care law envisions a major expansion of the program, but nearly half of all U.S. states, mostly Republican-controlled, have rejected that part of the Affordable Care Act.
Obama urged Republican state legislators to "think about the people here in Tennessee who are working hard and struggling and just need a little bit of help."
Analysts say Nashville was carefully selected for a bipartisan push, noting that Tennessee’s Republican governor, Bill Haslam, tried to expand Medicaid, but was blocked by fellow Republicans in the state’s legislature.
The visit came six days after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld federal subsidies to millions of low- and middle-income Americans to help pay for health insurance premiums.
The Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit health policy group, says 6.9 million poor people, including 292,000 in Tennessee, will not get assistance if states don’t expand Medicaid.
Financial analysts say hospitals generally support the Medicaid expansion because the program often pays for those without insurance.
The Beacon Center of Tennessee, an independent, not-for-profit research group based in Nashville that stresses free-market solutions to public problems, says Obama is selling a program that is a "taxpayer bailout for special interests and hospitals.