No, Bill Clinton does not think Obamacare is ‘the craziest thing in the world’

Clinton doesn’t think the law is perfect, but he’s a staunch supporter.

CREDIT: AP Photo/John Locher
CREDIT: AP Photo/John Locher

During an event Monday in Flint, Michigan, Bill Clinton spoke out about how middle- and lower-income Americans are being squeezed by high health insurance premiums.

“The people that are getting killed in this deal are small business people and individuals who make just a little too much to get any of these subsidies,” the former president said. “Why? Because they’re not organized, they don’t have any bargaining power with insurance companies, and they’re getting whacked.”

“So you’ve got this crazy system where all of the sudden 25 million more people have health care [under Obamacare], 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,” he continued. “It’s the craziest thing in the world.”

Today, Clinton’s comments are being reported as though they were a broadside on President Obama’s signature piece of legislation by outlets like CNN:

And the Hill:

But in a statement sent to ThinkProgress, Angel Urena, press secretary for Bill Clinton, said the former president’s remarks are being taken out of context and emphasized that Clinton has consistently supported Obamacare:

President Clinton spoke about the importance of the Affordable Care Act and the good it has done to expand coverage for millions of Americans. And while he was slightly short-handed, it’s clear to everyone, including President Obama, that improvements are needed. That’s why Secretary Clinton has proposed measures including tax relief to cover excessive out-of-pocket costs, a public option and Medicare buy-in for those over 55. She’ll build on the progress we’ve made by increasing competition, choice, affordability and the number of Americans with insurance.

Urena highlighted remarks Clinton made earlier yesterday in Pontiac, Michigan, where he expressed the same concern about high premiums he did later in Flint while unambiguously calling Obamacare “a remarkable success.”

At that event, Clinton said:

I think [Obama’s] health care bill has been a remarkable success for 25 million people, and for getting rid of pre-existing conditions, and the problems with it show why the president was right to recommend a public option in the first place because the only real problems I can see with it are small business people and individual working people just above the subsidy line are having. Why is that? Because they’re small, they’re independent, they do have any market power vis a vis the insurance companies, and that’s why Hillary said, “The change we need is not to wreck this thing and repeal it. It’s done too much good. The change we need is to create an affordable option for the small business people and the working people who are not covered — that’s what the public opinion is about.”

On her website, Hillary Clinton vows that as president, she will “defend and expand the Affordable Care Act, which covers 20 million people.”

“Hillary will stand up to Republican-led attacks on this landmark law — and build on its success to bring the promise of affordable health care to more people and make a ‘public option’ possible,” her site reads. “She will also support letting people over 55 years old buy into Medicare.”

There’s broad agreement among Democrats that the Affordable Care Act isn’t perfect and needs improvement. On Sunday, the New York Times reported that “the departing president, the woman who seeks to replace him and nearly one-third of the Senate have endorsed a new government-sponsored health plan, the so-called public option, to give consumers an additional choice. A significant number of Democrats, for whom Senator Bernie Sanders spoke in the primaries, favor a single-payer arrangement, which could take the form of Medicare for all.”

Donald Trump and many Republicans, meanwhile, want to take the opposite approach, slashing regulations in hopes that’ll reduce premiums for the middle- and lower-income people President Clinton discussed yesterday. But the “repeal” path that Republicans prefer would leave millions of Americans without any access to health insurance whatsoever.