Before we get into the substance of what Bill Clinton said at a rally in Flint, Mich. on Monday, we do have to point out that once again, the dude careened seriously off message. Hillary Clinton needs a high turnout among both young voters and black voters, which is why she’s positioned herself so close to Obama both in the primary and general elections. Any perceived division between them is bad for her, which is why Bill Clinton’s trashing of the Affordable Care Act was emphatically Not Great for her campaign. Here’s what he said, just before calling ObamaCare “the craziest thing in the world”:
“You’ve got this crazy system where all the sudden 25 million more people have healthcare and then the people are out there busting it, sometimes 60 hours a week, wind up with their premiums doubled and their coverage cut in half.”
Here’s a full four-minute video on his health care remarks:
“If you were on the other side of this, if you were an insurer, you’d say gosh, I only got 2,000 people in this little pool. Eighty percent of the insurance costs every year come from 20 percent of the people. If I get unlucky in the pool I’ll lose money, so they overcharge you just to make sure, and on the good years they just make a whopping profit out of the people least able to pay it. It doesn’t make any sense. The insurance model doesn’t work here.”
He also pointed out that those who are “above the line” are the ones hurting the most, including small business owners who make too much to qualify for subsidies.
The thing is, as ill-timed as the remarks might be, he’s not wrong. On one hand, companies like UnitedHealth Group and Aetna have opted to exit the system’s online marketplaces, which means that in 2017, about one-third of U.S. counties will have only a single insurer from which to sign up for the ACA. That’s called a monopoly, and it’s basically a guarantee of worse coverage and higher premiums and deductibles. It’s also a great bet that other insurance companies will decide the profits aren’t worthwhile, and that some counties will be left with zero options for ACA coverage.
We already know that even those who qualify for coverage saw their deductibles and premiums increase substantially, and it’s become clear that these prices will only increase in the coming year, to the point that those who aren’t benefitting from federal subsidies to offset the increase could be paying three times what they used to pay for private insurance. Then there’s the issue of the coverage gap, especially in states that are refusing to expand coverage, which leaves even very poor people without coverage.
The Affordable Care Act is often touted as one of Obama’s great achievements, but as it decays from the inside due to its inherent flaws, all of which allow for more and more corruption at the insistence of the profit motive, the ultimate legacy of the act will be to prove that seeking compromise with conservative elements in Congress (and big money Democrats, to be fair) is a kind of pre-modern fantasy that leads to sub-par legislation which is born carrying the seeds of its own demise. What’s worse, those same people who supposedly compromised have fought tooth and nail to defeat it since the moment it was signed into law. It can be difficult for the left to admit these shortcomings, since it seems to put us on ideological footing with the GOP, who oppose ObamaCare for very different reasons, but if real reform to the health insurance system is our end goal, there will come a time when we have to admit that the ACA just isn’t working.
Clinton may not have been very helpful on Monday, but he was very, very right.