President Barack Obama this week announced Tampa is part of a White House Healthy Communities Challenge, a 20-city contest where local leaders will try to enroll the most uninsured people within the 3-month enrollment period ending Jan. 31, 2016.
He and his staff know it’s getting harder to find Americans without health insurance. In the first two years of open enrollment on HealthCare.gov, more than 17 million Americans signed up for coverage.
Radio reporters from five of those cities were invited to interview the President one-on-one about the challenge Thursday at the White House. WUSF had the opportunity to speak at the White House with Obama, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell, and Senior White House Advisor Valerie Jarrett.
Obama said he will visit the city that wins the challenge.
"What we're doing is putting out a challenge because we've targeted certain communities, including the Tampa area, where there are a lot of people who are eligible who haven't signed up yet,” he said.
In his conversation with WUSF, Obama said while the administration continues to first promote HealthCare.gov as a place for low-and-middle income Americans to qualify for and earn tax credits on monthly premiums, they also added features to highlight out-of-pocket expenses.
He said it is part of educating all Americans about the real cost of health care. And that price tag, he said, is going up for people with insurance of all types.
"People who already have insurance whether through their employers or the marketplaces oftentimes they’re finding higher co-pays and deductibles,” he said. “More costs are being dumped on them."
He encourages consumers to compare health plans each and every year. It promotes competition among health insurance companies. The President said the need to shop is especially important for people already enrolled on the marketplace, as some plans have seen significant increases in monthly premiums.
"Shopping is the most powerful way for you to drive down those costs," Obama said.
It’s not clear exactly how the administration selected Tampa and the other cities for the Healthy Communities Challenge. Tampa does have an uninsured rate of about 15 percent, and its mayor, Bob Buckhorn, is a longtime Obama supporter.
Earlier this week, Buckhorn was at the University of South Florida’s student union, pushing enrollment for the biggest target group – young, healthy adults who can help bring down the overall cost of insurance.
In addition to Tampa, the cities competing for a visit from Obama to their city are:
· Atlanta, GA
· Milwaukee, WI
· Charlotte, NC
· Nashville, TN
· Chicago, IL
· New Orleans, LA
· Dallas, TX
· Oakland, CA
· Denver, CO
· Philadelphia, PA
· Detroit, MI
· Phoenix, AZ
· Great Falls, MT
· Richmond, VA
· Kansas City, MO
· Salt Lake City, UT
· Las Vegas, NV
· Seattle, WA
· Long Beach, CA