Bill Clinton to Obama: Do the right thing, honor health insurance promise

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Former President Bill Clinton said Tuesday President Obama should find a way to keep his oft-repeated promise to the American public that if those who liked their present health insurance plan could keep it under Mr. Obama’s new health care law.

“I personally believe, even if it takes a change in the law, the president should honor the commitment that the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they got,” Mr. Clinton said in an interview with Ozy Media founder Carlos Watson.


SEE ALSO: Bill Clinton, other Democrats distance themselves from Obamacare


Mr. Obama is under fire for repeatedly saying people would not lose their existing plans under his signature law, only to walk back the pledge when millions of Americans received cancellation notices saying their coverage will not meet the Affordable Care Act’s minimum-coverage standards next year.

In the interview published Tuesday, Mr. Clinton said the country is “better off with this law than without it,” but there are three problems with its rollout.

First, online glitches suppressed the first several weeks of enrollment, an incident he compared it to the messy debut of the Medicare prescription benefit program under President George W. Bush.

Second, he noted that many governors have not opted to expand Medicaid to those making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. The federal government will fully pay for the newly eligible population through 2016, so Mr. Clinton thinks more GOP governors will “flip and start taking” the money.

The former president said the cancellation notices round out the series of problems, and it may have an outsized effect on younger people, but “not all young,” who make above 400 percent of the federal poverty level and are not eligible for subsidies to offset their premiums if they buy new coverage on the Obamacare health exchanges.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said President Obama agrees with Mr. Clinton’s advice, although he stopped short of saying what specific steps the administration might take.

“The answer is yes, the president’s tasked his team with looking at a range of options,” Mr. Carney said. He said Mr. Obama has ordered his aides “to look at ways to address that problem” of people whose policies have been canceled.

Mr. Carney was careful to note that in a TV interview last week, Mr. Clinton said that “we are better off with this law than without it.” Mr. Obama apologized last week for people losing their insurance based on assurances he made.

Political groups with an eye toward the 2014 elections seized on Mr. Clinton’s remarks.

The conservative Club for Growth put out a statement asking if Sen. Mark Pryor, an Arkansas Democrat who faces a tough reelection battle next year, will support the Mr. Clinton’s call for Mr. Obama to consider potential changes to the law to help people keep their plans if they want.

“Because of Obamacare, thousands of Arkansans have lost their health insurance, and premiums are doubling,” club President Chris Chocula said. “Mark Pryor needs to decide what he thinks is more important: the people of Arkansas or President Obama and his disastrous health care law.”

“I applaud President Clinton for joining the bipartisan call for President Obama to keep his promise to the American people,” House Speaker John A. Bohner, Ohio Republican, said. “These comments signify a growing recognition that Americans were misled when they were promised that they could keep their coverage under President Obama’s health care law. “

Mr. Boehner restated his commitment to scrapping the law, but said the parties’ difference “on that point” should not stop “reasonable Democrats from working with us to shield Americans from its most egregious consequences — like the millions of current health plans being canceled.”

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