Obama Defends Obamacare in New Orleans, Calls for Infrastructure Spending

President jokes he would fix health website, but he doesn't 'write code.'

President Barack Obama speaks during an economic address at The Port Of New Orleans on Nov. 8, 2013 in New Orleans, La.
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Veering away from his speech on rebuilding America's infrastructure, President Barack Obama continued to defend his signature domestic policy, the Affordable Care Act, during an event at the Port of New Orleans Friday.

The website designed to allow Americans to shop for and sign up for health insurance as required by the law has been plagued with problems, allowing Republicans to cite it as a living, breathing example of all that is wrong with Obamacare.

But Obama has ramped up his defense of the sweeping measure and vowed improvement.

"We've had this problem on the website. I'm not happy about that, but we're working overtime to make sure that it gets fixed," he said. "I promise you nobody has been more frustrated – I've wanted to go in and fix it myself but I don't write code."

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Obama also knocked Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican, for not expanding Medicaid as allowed through the health care law, arguing that declining to do so costs everyone.

"Here in Louisiana that would benefit about 265,000 people," he said.

Obama said those with insurance are already paying for the health care of the uninsured, because hospitals tack on the cost of 'free' emergency room care to health insurance companies, who pass it on to premium payers.

"Hospitals have to figure out how to get their money back, which means they jack up costs for everybody who does have health insurance by about $1,000 per family," Obama said. "So as a consequence what happens is you're already paying a hidden tax for a broken health care system."

But the main thrust of Obama's speech was to press for bipartisan support for improved infrastructure and other spending he said would spur the economy.

"Helping American businesses grow, creating more jobs, these are not Democratic or Republican priorities, they are priorities that everybody, regardless of party should be able to get behind," he said. "What we've got to do now is what we've always done – make some wise investments in our people and in our country that will help us grow over the long-term."

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Obama said 1 in 9 of American bridges are rated "structurally deficit" and more than 40 percent of major U.S. highways are congested.

"China's investing a whole lot in infrastructure, Europe is investing a whole lot in infrastructure, Brazil's investing a whole lot in infrastructure, what are we doing?" he said. "Nationally, we're falling behind. We're relying on old stuff. Rebuilding our transportation and communication networks is one of the fastest ways to create new jobs."

The president also called on Congress to move ahead on comprehensive immigration reform and the farm bill.

"All we're doing now is waiting for the House to act. I don't know what the hold-up is, but if there's a good reason not to do it, I haven't heard it," he said.

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