Bill Clinton encouraged Democrats to run on President Obama's healthcare law Wednesday, saying it was bringing down the cost of healthcare in the U.S. and that with 8 million people enrolled, "we’re rockin' along pretty good here."
Vulnerable Senate Democrats, including in Clinton’s home state of Arkansas, have distanced themselves from the legislation in their reelection campaigns, but Clinton said they should highlight popular aspects of the law while assuring the public that they are focused on fixing the issues that remain.
"What I advise the Democrats to do is talk about the good things that have happened under the bill, acknowledge the problems and say, 'Let's do what sensible people would do,' " Clinton said. "We had a problem we had to deal with. Albert Einstein couldn’t have done it perfectly the first time. Now let’s set a long-term repair process."
Clinton, who saw his own healthcare plan founder under a congressional assault early in his first term, said Congress should create a special committee to forge
bipartisan improvements to continue fixing the legislation. PBS anchor Gwen Ifill, who was interviewing Clinton at a fiscal summit in Washington, noted that his argument didn’t exactly equate to a bumper sticker slogan for Democrats.
"Maybe, but I find that people are pretty smart about it," the former president replied.
He said voters were more receptive to the law when reminded that because of the law, there are 100 million people who can afford insurance with preventive benefits and can't be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions. He also highlighted the law's policies allowing young people under 26 to stay on their parents' plans, as well as savings for seniors on prescription drug purchases.
Though only 26 states and the District of Columbia have accepted Obamacare's expansion of Medicaid so far, Clinton predicted that the rest would "come along," because "it's crazy not to do it."
"It's a beginning, and I think people can handle the truth," he said. "Talk about what's good about it, talk about the remaining problems, commit to fix the problems – that's the best political position."
Though Clinton said he wouldn't advise running away from the healthcare law, he acknowledged that "there may be some places where the well may be so poisoned that they have to do it."
But he rejected the notion that Democrats should run against the law in his home state of Arkansas, where Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor is facing a difficult reelection campaign. Clinton noted that Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe was able to craft a deal with the Republican-controlled Legislature to expand Medicaid in the state as part of the healthcare law.
The state was allowed to use federal money to buy private insurance for residents who would have otherwise been enrolled in Medicaid. While accomplishing that task, Clinton noted, Beebe’s approval rating has never dropped below 66%.