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Clinton To Obama: Honor Promise That People Can Keep Coverage

If you haven't heard about it yet, President Clinton sounds off on all things Obamacare during a provocative video interview with OZY, an online magazine.

Right off the bat, Clinton affirms his support for the law, despite its problems. "The big lesson is that we're better off with this law than without it," he says.

Still, the rollout of the online insurance marketplaces has been botched, as is plain to see. But, Clinton says, the difficulties aren't all that different from the ones that plagued the Bush administration during the expansion of Medicare in 2005 to include drug coverage. "It was a disaster," Clinton says.

Or, as Julie Rovner recounted in a recent story, "Computers couldn't talk to each other properly. Seniors ended up on endless phone holds. It took several months to work out many of the kinks." But eventually they did get solved, and the benefit became quite popular.

There are other less tractable problems with the Affordable Care Act, however. Clinton points out that states that have decided against taking federal money to expand Medicaid have left many people who work but don't make much in a "bizarre circumstance." In those states, people with incomes less than the poverty line (or $11,490 for an individual) wouldn't qualify for subsidized insurance on the exchanges or Medicaid.

Clinton winds up with a strong piece of advice for the administration about people who want to stick with the insurance coverage they have, even if it turns out not to be 100 percent in line with the Affordable Care Act's requirements. "I personally believe even if it takes a change to the law, the president should honor the commitment the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they got."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Hensley edits stories about health, biomedical research and pharmaceuticals for NPR's Science desk. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he has led the desk's reporting on the development of vaccines against the coronavirus.