With no lack of interruptions, rivals Tim Kaine and Mike Pence defend their respective top-of-the-ticket partners in the election's only vice presidential debate.

Bill Clinton on Obamacare: 'The craziest thing in the world'

Bill Clinton criticized President Obama’s most significant policy achievement while campaigning for Hillary Clinton this week, breaking with his wife’s public practice by referring to aspects of the Obamacare system as “the craziest thing in the world.”

At a rally for Democrats in Flint, Mich., on Monday, Clinton said the current system works fine for seniors on Medicare, poor people on Medicaid and low-income earners who qualify for Obamacare subsidies.

But small-business owners and individuals who make just a little too much to qualify for government subsidies are “getting killed in this deal,” the former president said.

“So you’ve got this crazy system where all of a sudden 25 million more people have healthcare, and then the people who are out there busting it sometimes 60 hours a week, wind up with their premiums doubled and their coverage cut in half,” Clinton said. “It’s the craziest thing in the world.”

In their substance, the remarks weren’t at odds with the Democratic nominee’s public stand. Hillary Clinton says she wants to “defend and build on the Affordable Care Act” and improve it, possibly through a public option that may bring down the price of other plans through competition.

But Bill Clinton broke with Hillary Clinton’s fierce public loyalty to Obamacare, a split message that either showed him to be off the campaign game plan — or mercurially in sync with it.

It was “the true definition of a campaign gaffe, where a politician screws up by saying what they really think,” said Kevin Madden, an advisor to 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

At the same time, Bill Clinton could be making a play for white working-class voters who feel they are suffering under the Affordable Care Act — feeding a suspicion in Washington that the former president could morph into a shadow candidate, saying the things the real candidate can’t say.

“Everyone is always quick to ascribe some sort of triangulating genius” to Bill Clinton, as one strategist put it. “Best way to test the theory that it’s some sort of signaling? Watch to see if they walk this back.”

Right off the bat, the Clinton campaign did not do so.

“What he was expressing was the same view that not only Hillary Clinton has, but President Obama would express as well,” senior Clinton advisor Jen Palmieri told MSNBC on Tuesday. “As much progress has been made with the ACA, there are still a lot of cost issues to be dealt with not just for small businesses, but for some individuals.”

In his Obamacare critique in Flint, Bill Clinton offered one policy scenario.

“Here’s the simplest thing,” he said. “Figure out an affordable rate and let people use that, something that won’t undermine your quality of life, won’t interfere with your ability to make expenses, won’t interfere with your ability to save money for your kids’ college education, and let people buy into Medicare or Medicaid.”

It is unclear exactly what he meant, but that simple solution could be an allusion to the thing liberals most want — a single-payer system.

Latest updates

By the numbers

How does Clinton or Trump get to 270 electoral votes? Play with our map.

Third debate scorecard: Here's who's winning each round

All things Clinton | All things Trump

Who's endorsing who? Find out which celebrities support each candidate.

Find out which Republicans support Donald Trump

Get free news and analysis in your inbox daily from our political team.

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World