Bill Clinton Says Obama Should Honor Health Care Promise

Nov 12, 2013 3:21 PM



CBS NEWS/ November 12, 2013

Former President Bill Clinton believes that President Obama should keep his promise that those who liked their health insurance coverage before the Affordable Care Act became law could keep that coverage -- even if it means changing the law, he said in a recent interview.

In an interview with the online magazine Ozy, Mr. Clinton said, "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 got."

The White House said Tuesday that Mr. Obama agrees with Mr. Clinton.

"The answer is yes," White House spokesman Jay Carney responded when asked if the president agrees with Mr. Clinton's comments, adding, "The president has tasked his team with looking at a range of options, as he said, to make sure nobody is put in a position where their plans are canceled" and their new options are too costly. Carney continued, "He's very interested in trying to address this problem."

While the administration is looking at a "range of options," Carney said, he declined to say specifically what, if any, kind of legislative fix they are considering.

In an interview with NBC last week, Mr. Obama said he's "sorry" that millions of Americans are being dropped from insurance plans that don't meet the minimum coverage standards set by Obamacare. "I am sorry that they, you know, are finding themselves in this situation, based on assurances they got from me," he said.

The president added that his administration wants "to make sure that nobody is put in a position where their plan's been cancelled, they can't afford a better plan, even though they'd like to have a better plan. And so we're going to have to work hard to make sure that those folks are, you know, taken care of."

The Republican-led House plans to vote this week on a bill that would aim to resolve the issue. The bill, which is called the "Keep Your Health Plan Act" and has 88 co-sponsors in the House, would allow plans that existed on the individual market as of Jan. 1, 2013 to stay in effect through 2014.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement Tuesday that he applauds Mr. Clinton's remarks and that he encourages Democrats to join Republicans in passing the "Keep Your Health Plan Act."

Mr. Clinton's comments, he said, "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.The entire health care law is a train wreck that needs to go. And while the two parties may disagree on that point, it shouldn't stop reasonable Democrats from working with us to shield Americans from its most egregious consequences - like the millions of current health plans being canceled."

Carney said the White House opposes the House bill because it would allow insurers to sell 2013 plans in 2014 to anyone, not just customers who already have those plans. That, he said, "creates all sorts of problems for insurers trying to meet the basic standards" set by the Affordable Care Act, undermining the whole law.

"We do not see that as fixing the problem, we see that as throwing the baby out with the bath water," Carney said.

While Mr. Clinton said Mr. Obama should "honor the commitment" to let people keep their plans, he generally defended the health law. "The big lesson is that we're better off with this law than without it," he said.

However, Mr. Clinton pointed out the administration has to improve, the dysfunctional website that serves as the online portal to the new Obamacare marketplaces in 36 states.

Carney on Tuesday maintained that the website should be running smoothly for the vast majority of users by the end of November. He noted that the administration has "expanded our efforts to create ways through which Americans can get information about the options available to them," including through in-person consultations, over the phone. He declined to say whether the administration has any backup plan for a scenario in which the website isn't functioning by the end of the month.

According to some reports, as the administration considers how to help consumers, insurers have suggested they could play a larger role and let people sign up for insurance directly on their own websites.

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