Bill Clinton Calls ACA "Craziest Thing" During Speech in Michigan

The former president said that Obama's signature law works well for those who are enrolled in Medicaid or who qualify for subsidies, but others have seen premium increases with lower benefits. The White House noted that Hillary Clinton supports improvements to the law.

In a presidential race that can’t seem to get any crazier, the 2016 contest just did.

Former President Bill Clinton, campaigning last night for his wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in Flint, Michigan, called aspects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) the “craziest thing” during his stump speech.

Mind you, he didn’t call for repealing the ACA, the signature law of President Barack Obama that was narrowly approved by Democrats in Congress in 2010. In fact, Clinton said that “our opponents” are wrong to think they can leave healthcare access to the whims of the market. Before the ACA, the former president said, “We wound up with the most expensive system in the world, and we insured the smallest percentage of people.”

But today, he said, things work well for some groups of people but not others. The ACA has been great for those added to the rolls through Medicaid expansion or for those who qualify for subsidies. It’s fine for those old enough for Medicare.

And then:

“You’ve got this crazy system where all of a 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,” Clinton said.

For small businesses and these individuals just beyond the subsidy level, he said, “It’s the craziest thing in the world.”

The former president, who tried and failed to pass universal healthcare in 1994 in an effort led by Hillary Clinton, proceeded to call for adjustments to the ACA. As the Democrats’ nominee, Hillary Clinton has called for allowing those aged 55 or older to enroll in Medicare, and has said the law “needs fixing,” but has stopped short of saying it doesn’t work.

In Flint, Bill Clinton called for “figuring out an affordable rate” and allowing people to enroll in Medicare or Medicaid. Other commentators, including Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman, have said it is possible that the law is beginning to unravel, given the decision by several national insurers to withdraw from exchanges in multiple states.

Another economist, Uwe Reinhardt, said last month that the law failed to feature enough punitive measures to force young adults to buy coverage, leading to the adverse selection problems that insurers say have led to higher-than-expected losses.

Asked Tuesday about Bill Clinton’s remarks, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said President Obama acknowledges that more can be done to strengthen the law and that Hillary Clinton is willing to do so. In a special communication in JAMA in July, Obama revisited the idea of the public option for select markets where choices are limited. That idea was scrapped during negotiations on the bill.