In the interest of full disclosure, Bill Clinton was not my first choice as president in 1992. I did ultimately vote for him, of course, but not in the primary. Clinton is a child of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), which was a horribly inept group that had but one successful election (guess which?) in their 20-year existence. Thankfully, Barack Obama pretty much destroyed them in 2008. I’ve had far too many run-ins with DLC operatives over the years, which is why the best I could do in the Virginia gubernatorial race a few weeks ago was to declare DLC mastermind Terry McAuliffe “better than Ken Cuccinelli.” I actually thanked my lucky stars I didn’t live in Virginia.
Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised by Clinton’s deft handling of the economy during his eight years in office, and I think he did a credible job on foreign policy. But my praise of him has always been measured, because he far too often capitulated on important issues, which have caused people a lot of pain over the years, such as welfare reform, the changing of media ownership rules, “don’t ask, don’t tell,” DOMA and the repeal of Glass-Steagall. But his biggest failure has to be the failure to pass any sort of health insurance reform in eight years, even though it was a signature promise of his campaign, and he had a booming economy and budget surpluses in his favor.
Seriously, there is no excuse for Clinton to criticize Obama about the Affordable Care Act. At all. Obama got it done, and Clinton didn’t. Therefore, when the former President does so, it really sounds a lot like sour grapes. And frankly, his latest criticism of Obamacare (not Clintoncare) just sounds ridiculous.
In an OZY Media interview earlier this week, Clinton was asked about the alleged “lie” Obama supposedly told, in which he claimed that people could keep their plans if they liked them. The question isn’t a surprise, since journalists don’t actually want to do any work for their stories these days, and since the website seems to be working better lately, this is all they have to bitch about these days. But Clinton’s answer is strangely clueless. “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.”
Forget the fact that this answer undermines the President and the Administration at a time when they’re trying to reassure people things are fine. Forget the fact that this answer makes the GOP giddy, because it aids their efforts to turn minor problems into crises, which they are trying to do, so they can repeal the ACA altogether. Forget the fact that people with good insurance policies CAN keep their policies. How would he plan to pass changes to a law that the Republicans who run Congress have voted about 44 times to kill? In what fantasy world does he imagine such a change passing, without a whole bunch of amendments being attached to it?
See, here’s the problem, and I know for a fact that Clinton understands this; the people who are complaining about this simply don’t know what they’re talking about. If you were to ask 1000 people at random basic questions about their health insurance policy, perhaps two would be able to answer those questions accurately. Most people never get sick, so they had/have no idea that insurance companies paid for as little as they could get away with, and that they had clerks at their offices who were robosigning claims denials, and that insurance administrators had the ultimate say regarding what kind of treatment you would be allowed to have. And I guarantee you they had no idea how onerous the “pre-existing condition” clauses were, and how they could be dropped in a heartbeat if they got “too sick,” even if they’d paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in premiums over 30 years. In other words, most policies were terrible and the people complaining had no idea.
Should President Obama have perhaps qualified his statements a bit, letting people know they could keep their policies, as long as they met the basic ACA criteria? Maybe. But the original bill actually said exactly what he said. And frankly, who could have imagined that anyone would choose to keep a policy that didn’t cover everything, rather than upgrade to one that covers absolutely everything, anyway? “If you like your insurance, you can keep it” was probably based partly on the assumption that no one in their right mind would want it. Would YOU keep driving that Yugo if you could trade it for a late-model Cadillac for roughly the same cost?
But what Clinton is saying is that we should allow people to keep insurance policies that are inferior, and which essentially cost everyone else in the system more money. See, the problem with the old system of health care finance is that too many bills went unpaid, which means those costs had to be spread around to everyone else. That’s what caused health care inflation to average about 12% per year, which was more than three times the inflation rate in the rest of the economy.
Clinton is recommending that we abandon principle and economy, in order to placate people who are basically having a hissy fit over something they don’t even understand. In many cases, they “liked” their old policy because the premium was low, and they “never get sick.” Now, in some cases, the insurance company has decided that keeping the old policy around and incorporating the ACA changes creates a premium that is too high for most people to afford. So, rather than modifying the cheap piece-of-crap plan and charging you twice as much, they’re fashioning other plans that fit into the exchanges. That said, nearly everyone who claims their insurance policy is canceled as of January 1, and that they’re going to have to pay twice as much for a plan are usually full of crap. At the very least, the journalists who are accepting this story at face value should do the research, and find out what they’d really pay. It’s almost never going to be double, and in most cases, the premium should be lower. In most states (those except some of the Republican states who denied their citizens access to health insurance choices), there are multiple insurance companies to choose from, and all of them have at least three levels of policies. Many people also get a subsidy to help pay their premiums, and employer-based policies require that the employer pay at least 60 percent of premiums, and that covers about 85-90 percent of all health insurance policies written. With all of those factors in play, the odds of anyone’s insurance premiums “doubling” are slim.
It’s hard to tell what Bill Clinton’s aim is. Is he still holding some resentment of President Obama from 2008, or is he just trying to play both sides of the fence, which is the DLC strategy that has made them the failures they were for many years. Either way, what he said is complete crap. Making sure people can keep inferior insurance policies would undermine the entire purpose of the ACA, which is to create an insurance system that works