Former President Bill Clinton, dubbed the “Secretary of Explaining Stuff” after his tour-de-force address at last year’s Democratic National Convention, took to the podium Wednesday at his presidential library in Little Rock to sell Arkansans, and the nation, on the merits of President Obama’s signature healthcare law.
The former president is one of many high-profile speakers expected to rally support for the Affordable Care Act and its fledgling national and state-based insurance marketplaces, whose success is contingent upon people signing up between Oct. 1 and March 31.
“I am still amazed at how much misunderstanding there is about the current state of health care,” Clinton told the crowd, before distilling his argument into nuts-and-bolts comparisons to healthcare spending in the U.S. versus other developed nations.
“Other countries at our income level cover everybody and do it for far less cost,” Clinton said, citing Japan’s healthcare expenditures at 9% of its GDP and the Netherlands and Switzerland at 12%. The U.S., he said falls at 17.9%, representing a trillion-dollar gap between America’s spending and Japan’s.
“A trillion dollars, that could go to pay raises or to hire new employees or to make investments that would make our economy grow faster, or to provide more capital to start small businesses or grow others,” Clinton said. “You name it. A trillion dollars is a lot of money.”
Throughout Obama’s term in the White House, Clinton has proved a formidable ally, entering the public debate at key moments, including a surprise appearance in the White House press briefing room during the 2010 budget showdown.
“The paperwork costs of our system, since there are so many people paying into it, are incredibly high. About a dime on a dollar higher than the next most expensive country in the world. That’s a lot of money, and we all pay for this,” Clinton told the crowd.
He opened his speech by talking about his efforts within the newly renamed Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation to stem the epidemic of childhood obesity in this country, and “trying to preserve the healthcare of the baby boom generation so we don’t bankrupt the rest of you.”
Clinton detailed how under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, medical providers’ pay would be based on the quality of the care, not the number of procedures or products provided, and he called the current system “unaffordable and downright unhealthy for millions of Americans.”
Clinton said that opting out of the state-based exchanges was tantamount to “leaving money on the table,” or turning down federal highway funding. “Not cooperating means the states’ taxpayers will pay for this and the money will to go someone else, somewhere else,” Clinton said.
Opponents have balked at the health care law’s cost, and the Republican National Committee hit back Wednesday morning with a mass email and online pledge to repeal Obamacare.
There have been more than 40 votes in Congress to repeal the law, which the Supreme Court upheld last summer, but Clinton noted, no options have been presented in Congress to fix it.
“I think we’ve all got an interest in trying to faithfully execute the laws,” Clinton said. “If you get one of these elected jobs, you actually take an oath to do that.”