Former President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonLeft laughs off floated changes to 2024 ticket A year into his presidency, Biden is polling at an all-time low Second gentleman Emhoff acts as public link to White House MORE steamrolled President Obama’s signature healthcare law at a rally, calling it “the craziest thing in the world.”
Speaking Monday in Flint, Mich., Clinton blasted the core principles of ObamaCare as unworkable as he pitched a new system that would allow people to buy into Medicare or Medicaid.
“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,” he said.
Clinton’s blunt remarks while campaigning for his wife, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Democrats see victory in a voting rights defeat Left laughs off floated changes to 2024 ticket A year into his presidency, Biden is polling at an all-time low MORE, run in direct contrast to her previous promises to build on ObamaCare.
While acknowledging problems like rising drug costs, Hillary Clinton has largely embraced the healthcare law and criticized her Republican opponent, Donald TrumpDonald TrumpSanders calls out Manchin, Sinema ahead of filibuster showdown Laura Ingraham 'not saying' if she'd support Trump in 2024 The Hill's 12:30 Report: Djokovic may not compete in French Open over vaccine requirement MORE, for his repeated promise to repeal the law.
Trump’s campaign seized on Bill Clinton’s comments, arguing that he is siding with Republicans opposed to the law.
“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,” Jason Miller, a spokesman for Trump, wrote in a statement.
Bill Clinton’s spokesman Angel Urena defended the comments in a statement, arguing that parts were “taken out of context.”
“President Clinton spoke about the importance of the Affordable Care Act and the good it has done to expand coverage for millions of Americans,” Urena said. “And while he was slightly short-handed, it's clear to everyone, including President Obama, that improvements are needed.”
Clinton’s campaign has also sought to downplay the remarks, pointing to some ObamaCare criticism by Obama himself this week, when he described “real problems” with the law, such as the still-shaky insurance marketplace and the need for bigger subsidies.
Bill Clinton, whose own attempts at broad healthcare reform failed during his presidency in the 1990s, suggested on Monday that he supported an entirely new approach.
He hinted at what has been a rough summer for ObamaCare, with double-digit premium hikes in many states and the high-profile departures of many insurers — a scenario that Republicans are grabbing hold of on the campaign trail.
“We gotta figure out what to do now on healthcare,” he said, adding that the current system only “works fine” if people are receiving the ObamaCare subsidies or are enrolled in Medicare or Medicaid.
“The people who are getting killed in this deal are small business people and individuals who make just a little bit too much to get any of these subsidies,” he said, arguing that the law does not give any new bargaining power for people struggling to pay their healthcare costs.
Clinton’s disparagement of ObamaCare comes one day before a major speech by Obama, who plans to tout the effects of his law to a crowd in Florida on Wednesday.
Urena, the former president’s spokesman, underscored that Clinton’s support for ObamaCare has “been consistent” throughout the years, citing a speech earlier this week in which Clinton calls the law “a remarkable success for 25 million people.”
In the same speech, Clinton called for a government-run “public option,” describing it as “the change we need” to help working class people who aren’t covered.
The former president has previously voiced skepticism about the law. In an interview with CNN in 2011, Clinton said there was “some chance” that the Supreme Court could strike down the healthcare law. He also said then that the federal government was going to need “some changes in healthcare.”
He has also been pointing out the law’s issues with affordability for several years. In a speech in 2013, Clinton urged Republicans in Congress to help Democrats “fix” it.
"There are always drafting errors, unintended consequences, unanticipated issues," Clinton said in a 2013 address. "We’re going to do better working together and learning together than we will trying over and over to repeal the law or rooting for reform to fail and refusing to fix relatively simple matters."
In a later interview after ObamaCare’s botched launch in 2013, Clinton criticized Obama for promising people that they could keep their existing healthcare coverage under the law.
"I personally believe, even if it takes a change in the law, the president should honor the commitment the federal government made to these people and let them keep what they got,” Clinton told the magazine Oxy.
Still, he ultimately defended the law.
“The big lesson is, that we’re better off with this law than without it,” Clinton said then.
- This story was updated at 12:41 p.m.