With the Affordable Care Act, also widely known as Obamacare, just under a month away from launching, the Obama administration has taken measures to simplify the complexities of the health care law. Employing former President Bill Clinton in his unofficial role of “Secretary Of Explaining Stuff,” the finer points of the Act were broken down with the Arkansas native’s straightforward style.
Speaking Wednesday morning from his presidential library in Little Rock, Ark., Mr. Clinton spoke to the invitation-only attendees in a first of events planned to ease public fears, urge political unity, and hit back at Republican lawmakers critical of the Act. Using data compiled by government agencies, Clinton first addressed the importance of the new law by the numbers.
From the speech:
Now, the Affordable Care Act is designed to address all these issues by making health care coverage available and more affordable to all Americans, by improving health care delivery and paying for it based on its quality — not the number of procedures performed and products provided — and by creating more affordable options for uninsured people and small businesses. That’s what Arkansas Governor Beebe and the legislators are leading the country, I think, in bipartisan efforts to do.
Now, the law has generated a lot of opposition, as we all know. It has been attacked from the left, believe it or not, for not having a public option, that is, for leaving the insurance companies with too large a role in health care. And it’s been attacked from the right for increasing the role of government in health care delivery.
Much of Clinton’s speech was delivered without his typical humorous bent, perhaps to underscore an image of seriousness over such a polarizing matter. An interesting moment, though, took place when he blasted political infighting and listed a handful of reasons why both parties and the public should embrace the upcoming law.
Leading off with saying the Act is better than the current health care laws in place, Clinton then followed by saying the law will give individual states the power to craft laws that serve the needs of its residents. Clinton also cautioned that states who do not cooperate will impact taxpayers adversely and the money will go elsewhere. Clinton also conceded that while the Affordable Care Act has its issues, problems can be solved if lawmakers collaborate with the administration.
Clinton followed those points by saying the law provides the best and most-wide-reaching chance that universal health coverage will be a reality for all Americans and lower the costs of health care in order to complete globally on the economic front, saying, “And, finally, it is the law, and I think we have all got an interest in trying to faithfully execute the laws. If you get one of these elected jobs, you actually take an oath to do that.”
Clinton highlighted that 41-million Americans, mostly working class, are uninsured of which 22.5 million are men and 18.5 million are women. Clinton also talked race, pointing out that nearly 7 million African Americans are without health insurance as well as 10 million Latinos and 13 million Whites — along with Native Americans, Asians, and Pacific Islanders rounding out the rest. Former veterans who do not receive VA care made up 1.3 million.
For uninsured and unemployed Americans or the citizens struggling to make ends meet, there have been concerns over how they would be covered under the law to which Clinton responded:
An uninsured person can log on to a national site, healthcare.gov, or a state site and shop for the most-affordable appropriate policy. The prices, which include the discount for the tax credit, will be shown. And when a policy is ordered, the tax credit will actually be automatically sent by the government to the insurer, so there’s no other hassle for the person who is buying the insurance. You just pay what the computer screen says you owe.
To get this done, you do have to sign up on the state or federal website or at a designated call center between October 1st and March the 31st. That’s what’s about to happen. That’s what all these folks have been concerned about. That’s what they have been working on.
Clinton praised his home state for its public awareness campaign surrounding the Act, which other states have also done in preparing citizens for the changes to come. Still, bipartisan support of the law has come at a high political cost and Clinton wasn’t shy in mentioning some of the more troubling aspects of the act.
Modest income earners who are insured individually by their company but have uninsured family members will pay a penalty — as the law requires everyone to apply for coverage. Business owners with less than 50 employees do not have to provide health care even if they would like to. A tax credit provided by the government only covers a certain number of employees.
Lastly, Clinton hammered home that the Supreme Court supported the law after a review but gave states a right to refuse Medicaid expansion and the money that comes along with it. Many see this opposition as a Republican tactic of siding against President Barack Obama and also the conservative principle of less government involvement in the lives of Americans.
Consequently, Clinton ended his speech with, “The health of our people, the security and stability of our families, and the strength of our economy are all riding on getting health care reform right and doing it well. That means we have to do it together.”
Learn more about the Affordable Care Act here.