WASHINGTON — In an interview released Tuesday, former President Bill Clinton said President Obama should make sure Americans can retain their current health insurance plans, even if it means revamping the Affordable Care Act.
“I personally believe, even if it takes a change to the law, the president should honor the commitment the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they’ve got,” Clinton told OZY, a news website.
But that doesn’t mean Clinton is joining Republican calls for a complete overhaul. “The big lesson is that we’re better off with this law than without it,” he said.
Clinton compared the difficulties during the rollout of the healthcare law, in particular the tumultuous debut of the healthcare.gov website, to the rocky launch of Medicare drug benefits for seniors in 2006.
The Medicare expansion “was not as complicated, but had exactly the same problem with the rollout. It was a disaster. There were people who even lost their prescriptions for their existing medicine. And they fixed it,” Clinton said.
But Clinton’s support of the law was being overshadowed by his comments about canceled plans, which have begun to gain traction among conservatives looking to undo Obamacare. Those cancellations have now taken a prominent place in Republican arguments against the law.
Last week, Obama apologized to those “finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me.” “I’ve assigned my team to see what we can do to close some of the holes and gaps in the law,” he said in an interview with NBC, though he didn’t mention any specific changes.
This isn’t the first time Clinton’s remarks have caused the Obama team headaches, with the former president previously critiquing Obama’s handling of the conflict in Syria, the debt ceiling early in his first term and some issues during the 2008 presidential campaign before they buried the hatchet for 2012.
[Updated, 11:03 a.m. PST Nov. 12: White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday that Obama agrees with Clinton’s remarks.
“The president has tasked his team with looking at a range of options, as he said, to make sure that nobody is put in a position where their plans have been canceled and they can’t afford a better plan,” Carney said during the daily media briefing.]