WH defends ObamaCare from Bill Clinton’s criticism

WH defends ObamaCare from Bill Clinton’s criticism
© Greg Nash

The White House on Tuesday defended President Obama’s signature healthcare law after it came under criticism from former President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonCNN's Cuomo promotes 'Dirty Donald' hashtag, hits GOP for 'loyalty oath' to Trump Whether a rule is cruel or kind, regulatory analysis shines a light Moderate or left of center — which is better for Democrats in 2020? MORE

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“I think what I would say is the president is quite proud of the accomplishment of the Affordable Care Act,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters, in response to Clinton calling the program “the craziest thing in the world.”

"The American people benefit from the way the law has been implemented,” Earnest said.

He rattled off a list of achievements under the law, such as 20 million newly insured Americans, increased competition and consumer protections that block companies from refusing to insure people with pre-existing illnesses. 

Asked whether the White House hoped that Clinton would have used different words to describe the law, Earnest responded, "Of course."

But he declined to attack Clinton, the husband of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonNo, the polls aren't wrong — but you have to know what to look for How to shut down fake Republican outrage over 'spying' on Trump More than 200,000 Wisconsin voters will be removed from the rolls MORE, for comments that were widely seen as a direct challenge to Obama. 

“For the point that President Clinton was trying to make, I guess I would refer you to his team,” Earnest said. “You’ll have to talk to President Clinton directly about what message he was trying to send.”

Bill Clinton’s attack on the program, made while campaigning for his wife, were surprising because they run counter to his previous praise for ObamaCare. 

But during a Tuesday rally in Flint, Mich., Clinton blasted the core principles of ObamaCare as unworkable and proposed a new system that would allow consumers to purchase Medicare or Medicaid coverage. 

“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,” Clinton said.

“It’s the craziest thing in the world.”

The comments may cause a potentially damaging rift between the White House and the former president just about a month before Election Day. 

And they add fuel to the argument from GOP presidential nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpRepublicans aim to avoid war with White House over impeachment strategy New York Times editorial board calls for Trump's impeachment Trump rips Michigan Rep. Dingell after Fox News appearance: 'Really pathetic!' MORE and other Republicans that the law should be repealed. 

“With premiums continuing to skyrocket, state insurance markets collapsing and businesses struggling to comply with its job-killing mandates, even Democrats like Bill Clinton are coming to realize just what bad public policy ObamaCare really is,” Trump campaign spokesman Jason Miller said in a statement. 

Earnest said the law continues to be a “source of pride” for Obama and the “evidence cannot be refused” that it has helped Americans. 

But he noted that Obama has himself acknowledged “that there could be some things that could be done to strengthen the law.”

“That is something that Secretary Clinton has vowed to pursue,” he said, adding that Obama would support the Democratic nominee and former secretary of State in pursuing those tweaks. 

— Updated at 2:04 p.m.