Bill Clinton sells Obamacare, calls for bipartisan efforts to fix problems with the unpopular law

Caroline May | Reporter

With less than a month before the Obamacare exchanges open, the administration dispatched former president Bill Clinton to tout the unpopular law.

Speaking at the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas on Wednesday, President Obama’s “Secretary of Explaining Stuff” offered up a practical sell for Obama’s signature law.

“I’ll do the best I can in plain language to say how the law works, what’s happened so far, what has to be done now, what the unsolved problems are,” he said. “And why we’re better off working together to fix those problems than continuing to fight to repeal the law, or even worse, to make sure its implementation is a failure.”

Clinton noted at the outset that he had taken an “unusual” tack by writing out his whole speech.

The former Democratic president spoke of Obamacare as a cost-saver aimed at delivering better-quality affordable health care to more Americans.

He delved into political divisions on the issue, concluding that given Obamacare is law, the responsible thing for Democrats and Republicans to do is to work together to implement it.

“I think we should all work together to implement this law, whether we supported its passage or not,” Clinton said, explaining in part that “it’s better than the current system” and “it is the law.”

Clinton, who was introduced by a diabetic 25-year-old gradate student still on her parent’s health insurance, spoke about the changes in health care coverage that have already taken effect — such as allowing people under the age of 26 to remain on their parents health insurance, preventative care coverage and less expensive prescription drugs for seniors — and what is coming, specifically the open enrollment period for the exchanges.

While the former president, who failed to pass a comprehensive heath care reform law in the 1990s, gave a strong sell for the health care law, he did note that there are some problems.

“Like any law that is this complex, there are some problems that I think will have to be addressed,” Clinton said, explaining the thing that bothers him the most is a requirement that workers whose families are not covered by their employers’ plans are penalized by not being able to receive tax credits to cover their families through the exchanges.

“It’s obviously not fair,” Clinton said, further noting that he would also like to see employer tax credits extended for small businesses and highlighting a Medicaid expansion glitch that would need to be fixed at the state level.

“It seems to me that the benefits of reform can’t be fully realized and the problems certainly cannot be solved unless both the supporters and the opponents of the original legislation work together to implement it and address the issues that arise,” Clinton said.

“We’re going to do better working together and learning together than we will trying to over and over again repeal the law or rooting for reform to fail and refusing to fix relatively simple matters,” Clinton added.

A White House official quoted in Politico’s Playbook Wednesday morning explained the Clinton’s deployment as “part of the ongoing outreach efforts” in advance of the opening of the health care exchanges.

“These efforts will help to ensure that Americans know that there will be a simple way to get health insurance that will fit your needs, lifestyle, and budget at any income level, starting this fall,” the official added. “President Obama, senior administration officials, and wide range of stakeholders —  including DJs, librarians, faith leaders, pharmacies, celebrities and insurance companies — are working to ensure that Americans know about the new health insurance options that will be available in the new marketplaces.”

An August tracking poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation released last week found that public opinion about Obamacare remains upside down, with 37 percent viewing the new health care law favorably and 42 percent viewing it unfavorably.

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