The three most powerful members of the Democratic party–two of them are named Clinton–came together Tuesday to help trumpet the benefits of the Affordable Care Act just one week before one of the law’s major provisions rolls out.
After an introduction by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who welcomed “number 42 and number 44” for a “conversation” about health care in America, Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama discussed why millions of uninsured Americans should consider enrolling for health insurance under the new exchanges opening on October 1st.
Obama noted that premiums have turned out to be “significantly lower” than what used to be available on the open market, thanks to the competition. He specifically called out New York, California, and Illinois, where rates in the new exchanges have been between 25% and 50% lower than what was previously available, according to Obama.
“I can tell you right now that in many states across the country, if you’re say a 27-year-old young woman, don’t have health insurance, you get on that exchange, you’re going to be able to purchase high quality health insurance for less than the cost of your cellphone bill,” Obama said.
President Clinton touted the law’s benefits as well, pointing to the slower inflation in medical costs seen in recent years, which Obama spoke about too.
“The best part of the whole thing is because of these changes we initiated in terms of how we’re paying providers, health care costs have grown, as you pointed you, Mr. President, at the slowest rate in 50 years,” he said, explaining that the law is “bending the cost curve.”
Obama spoke about other benefits the law has already brought about, including rebates that Americans have already received, extended insurance options for young Americans, and additional discounts for seniors.
The joint pitch comes as the White House pushes to encourage uninsured Americans to sign up for insurance. The White House hopes to get 7 million Americans enrolled for insurance through exchanges over the six-month open enrollment period that lasts until March 2014.
The conversation also comes twenty years and one day after President Clinton made his own push for health reform in a address to a joint session of Congress. ”This health care system of ours is badly broken and it is time to fix it,” he said at the time. Clinton was ultimately unable to get his health reform plans through Congress. But he and Obama had one thing in common: ample criticism from the right.
Obama took on his critics, who’ve waged a relentless campaign that has ramped up in recent weeks as conservatives try to “scare a discourage people from getting a good deal” by enrolling in the exchanges. He referred to some of the anti-Obamacare ads that have been a “little wacky”–presumably a reference to the “Creepy Uncle Sam“ ads released by a Koch Brothers affiliated group.
Obama criticized many of his opponents for talking about the need to repeal the law, while supporting individual provisions like coverage for pre-existing conditions and the option to keep young Americans insured by their parents plans for longer. “You go down the list and there’s not too much people object to,” he said.
He also called out what he called the “odd logic” of his opponents, some of whom have indicated they want to repeal the law before it goes fully into effect because they are afraid “people will like it” too much.
Clinton too talked about some of the critics, who warned that the law’s requirement that employers offer coverage would lead to an increase in the number of part-time as opposed to full time jobs.
“There were many people who speculated that when this law came into place, that it would add to the cost, and there would be a lot more part-time workers instead of full-time workers,” Clinton said. “I’ll save the president some time and energy on this: So far, that’s not true.”
Both presidents advised Americans to go to healthcare.gov to check out the plans.
“Rather than try to disabuse people of every single bit of misinformation that’s out there, what we’re saying is just look for yourself,” he said. “And you will discover that this is a good deal for you.”
“What we are confident about is that when people look and see that people can get high quality affordable health care for less than their cell phone bill, they’re going to sign up,” he said.
After recognizing Obama’s accomplishments, Clinton made sure to praise First Lady Michelle Obama for her efforts to reduce childhood obesity.
“The First Lady’s trying to help keep us all healthier and you’re trying to change the delivery and pricing,” he said to Obama. “I think this is a big step forward for America that will not only make us healthier but will free up funds that can be reinvested in other areas of economic growth–but first, we gotta get everyone to sign up.”
Watch their full discussion: