With 40 days to go until the new health insurance marketplaces open online, President Barack Obama's top health official was in Philadelphia Thursday rallying support for the Affordable Care Act.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was joined by Mayor Michael Nutter at the North Philly campus of Congreso — a human services organization aimed at helping the city's Latino population.
"They need to stop wasting their time and our time on these useless and endless fights about the Affordable Care Act," Nutter told the crowd. "It's the law, it was passed, we won that fight, it's over. Move on to something else."
Nutter said the state's decision to not expand Medicaid eligibility would likely keep 100,000 uninsured Philadelphians from getting coverage. According to Nutter, 52 percent of patients seeking care at Philadelphia's network of health clinics are uninsured.
"Our state is losing out on millions of dollars of federal funding that could be used to improve health care right here in Philadelphia," Nutter said.
Sebelius was in Philadelphia to explain the benefits of Obamacare to a largely Latino crowd. Reaching out to Latinos is one of the administration's key priorities, she said. Along with HealthCare.gov, there's a Spanish-language companion site CuidadoDeSalud.gov.
"It's one of the highest uninsured populations in America," said Sebelius, "so outreach into the [Latino] community to talk about what is available and what's coming is hugely important."
That outreach is being done on a shoestring, however.
Dedicated funding to market the Affordable Care Act was never approved by Congress. So, with just weeks left until one of the health law's major touchstones goes live, Sebelius is reaching out to partners across the country willing to help spread the word at street level.
"It really is now time for us to activate the local advocacy communities," Sebelius told reporters.
Nutter called the lack of dedicated outreach funding "insane."
"We have this law ... we're about to sign people up, and yet some in Congress think that we should not inform people about health care that is available and ready for them and can actually improve their lives," Nutter told reporters. "That is mean-spirited."
Sebelius reps say the secretary will remain on the road in the coming days and weeks, hitting states like Pennsylvania [map] that chose to let the feds run their new health insurance marketplaces.