Bill Clinton Tries to Persuade Republicans to Help Fix Health Reform

The former president and unofficial “secretary of explaining stuff” might be the Administration's last hope for getting the GOP to play ball on Obamacare

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Danny Johnston / Associated Press

Former President Bill Clinton speaks about health care at the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Ark., Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013.

When Democrats need to sell the American people on a complex and beleaguered government project, there’s only one guy they call.

In a last-ditch attempt to persuade Republican lawmakers to work with Democrats on implementing the Affordable Care Act, the Obama Administration has enlisted the help of Bill Clinton. In a speech at the Clinton library in Little Rock, Arkansas, on Wednesday, the former president, whom Obama has called the “secretary of explaining stuff,” outlined why the law was needed and how it will work. “I have agreed to give this talk today because I am still amazed at how much misunderstanding there is about the current system of health care—how it works, how it compares with what other people in other countries pay for health care and what kind of results they get—and what changes are actually occurring now and are going to occur in the future,” Clinton said.

Clinton’s policy explanations, contained in a prepared text he read with glasses perched on his nose, were familiar to anyone with a basic understanding of how the new health care law operates. But he wrapped up his case for bipartisan cooperation by outlining flaws in the law desperately in need of repair that won’t be fixed without legislative action at the state and federal levels. This was notable because the Obama Administration has downplayed glitches and unintended consequences that may result from the law.

Some flaws in Obamacare seem like actual errors, according to Clinton. The law, for instance, requires large employers to provide health insurance to employees, but not their family members. This is the case even though spouses and children of the employees will be required by the law to have health insurance, but aren’t eligible for federal subsidies to buy coverage independently. “It’s obviously not fair and bad policy, but it’s not clear to me that anybody intended this,” said Clinton. “I think Congress should fix it.”

Clinton also said he believes Obamacare tax credits created for small businesses to help them afford health insurance for their workers are too small and limited to too few companies.

Clinton also pointed to what is probably the most pressing problem in the law’s design. Obamacare was designed to provide Medicaid coverage, through a large national expansion, to all Americans earning up to 138% of the federal poverty level (FDL). Those earning above that level but below 400% of FDL will be eligible for federal subsidies to buy private coverage. But the Supreme Court’s 2012 ruling that the Medicaid expansion must be optional for states has left legions of the working poor with no way to afford insurance. Those who don’t qualify for Medicaid in a state like Texas, where Medicaid eligibility is very strict and will remain so under Obamacare, won’t qualify for subsides unless they earn more than 100% of FDL. “You get the worst of all worlds,” Clinton said. “You’re too poor to get help…And this is a problem only the states can fix.”

Clinton’s ability to persuade Republican state lawmakers to suddenly begin working with the Obama Administration on implementation of the health care law after three years of resistance is limited at best. But at this stage, less than a month before the law’s health insurance marketplaces launch, the White House seems willing to try anything—even if it means admitting, through an intermediary, that the law is flawed and needs Republican participation to fix it.

“It is the law and I think we’ve all got an interest in trying to faithfully execute the law,” said Clinton. “To get one of the elected jobs, you actually take an oath to do that… We all get paid to show up for work and we need all hands on deck here.”

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31 comments
JohnWhitehurst
JohnWhitehurst

Some one is pulling my leg Right? This guy is a Famous liar and they ask him to sell it. The real deal is Billy Rotten Cartoons foundation is being paid by us tax payers. Billy boy does not speak for free. Some one will dig out the info on how much his foundationwas paid.

mary.waterton
mary.waterton

Americans don't want Obamacare. It hasn't even been fully implemented yet and already it's driving up costs and forcing people out of full-time work and into part-time.

pamkadow
pamkadow

@TIME like trying to sell ice to Eskimos good luck Bill

SmoothEdward1
SmoothEdward1

I have to laugh when anti-Obamacare people complain about Congressman not having read the bill, yet they don't know what's in either. Now, I know some of you right-wingers, faux-Libertarians who just don't want to buy health insurance are going to say, "We pay our Congressman to know what's in the bill," and you'd be right. But, if you don't know what's in there how do you know whether it's something you can support, or be criticizing? Story of modern American culture, uninformed, but highly opinionated.

randal1911
randal1911

@TIME Obama Has Clinton Working the House to sway Members trying to keep them from defunding Obamacare, We need to keep the pressure On

boccio
boccio

@TIME @TIMEPolitics a lesson in what happens when you ram an unpolished bill through the legislative process

gingerjeanne
gingerjeanne

@TIME bill u used bra nice guy now no respect u want people to die with obamacare and you wife to lie about Libya no respect at all loser

notLostInSpace
notLostInSpace

Bill can sell ice to eskimos but Republicans would not take an umbrella from a Democrat in a rain deluge if offered. 

RubyNoon
RubyNoon

Bill Clinton- the world's most famous rapist!

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@mary.waterton If only that arrogant fool was not busy congratulating himself and asked the Republicans to sit down and craft an health plan acceptable to everybody, instead of boasting elections have consequences, the GOP could have cooperated with him. Now he is alone floundering and even his party mates are abandoning him on Syria. Forgetting that elections come in cycles he thought his victory is permanent.  


notLostInSpace
notLostInSpace

Well, you read your Faux news, I'll read my real news.  People are finding costs are going down in many markets.  Where they are going up is in the polices that were POS policies to begin with that now actually have to have coverage for the things that you might actually need.  Where do you get your employment numbers from?  Unemployment continues to drift downwards EVERY month.  It must kill you right wingers who were so happy when Bush was losinig 700 HUNDRED THOUSAND jobs a month. 

Hollywooddeed
Hollywooddeed

@mary.waterton   Girlfriend, not only do you not speak for Americans, you have no idea what's in the bill other than what you've heard.  Do a little research.  Learn something.

Donplus
Donplus

@randal1911 @TIME Funny thing is that NO ONE can defund OBAMACARE, even if you shut down the GOV, it is a mandatory spending, the white house can be closed but that spending just like Military spending will be paid so advise whoever is even trying to g=forget the idea, they are just wasting thier time, that shows how our so-call GOP ppl level of mentality is and how thier Reps are playing them to believe that it is possible to defund it, it is the LAW get use to it

Donplus
Donplus

@JPrikasky @TIME @TIMEPolitics It will actually help you than take more money from your pocket, try reading the Bill by yourself for once and forget what anyone told you, it is online if you need the link I will be happy to forward it to you but you have to ask for it first so I dont have to waste my time

laliberta1991
laliberta1991

@gingerjeanne @TIME Typical comment of the ill-informed. However, I digress. 

tommyudo
tommyudo

@gingerjeanne @TIME 

Ahhhh, the incoherence of a Twitter post in all of it's mindless glory. You're really a deep thinker  GJ.

Kind of a female version of Howard Morris's Earnest T. Bass character from the old Andy Griffith Show.

I bet when you have to count past 10 you have to take off one of your shoes.

notLostInSpace
notLostInSpace

You can call him many things legitimately, why so compelled to just make up 5hit?  Boehner is a child molester and Reagan slept with animals, or was it the other way around?  Easy to mix things up when you don't bother to use facts.  But using facts never seems to be a challenge to the Republicans; I recall in the last election some of the media gave up checking facts on many Republican candidates because they just could not keep up with the lies.

notLostInSpace
notLostInSpace

Oh brother.  You pay for auto insurance right?  You pay taxes so kids can go to school....what do you want to do if you don't have kids in school, not pay taxes?  You are paying NOW for the underinsured by higher payments to the industry passed along by the happy to do so insurers and taxing authorities.  Make people pay for their own health.  It is so simple.  Don't become a ward of the state or the hospital when you get hit by a falling tree or have a heart attack.  Part of being American is the mutual aims of a society that believes in a healthy, educated, productive population.  It is not working now, try something different.

notLostInSpace
notLostInSpace

I love the internet.  Google Obama and lost hours and you will find out he was having a coke party during Benghazi.  Believe that story?  How about the faked moon landing?  How about the Holocaust was faked by Jews?  As James Carvill put so correctly "drag a fifty dollar bill through a trailer park and you can get anyone to say anything".  Words like "allegations" and "accused" are meaningless old Chosun1.  Being on the internet has no credibility, any ahole can post anything he wants with impunity.   Bill Clinton has proven that he is not the most faithful of husbands....big surprise, about 50% of men in this country can admit the same thing.  Rape?  As they would say in Dragnet, "just the facts".