In a rare Democratic moment of truth, Bill Clinton almost sounded like a conservative for a few minutes in Flint, Mich. on Monday. In his remarks, which were covered by CNN, Clinton called Obamacare the “craziest thing in the world.” On Tuesday, Mr. Clinton tried to walk back his comments and may have inadvertently provided insight into Hillary Clinton’s new healthcare strategy if the she wins the election.
“So you’ve got this crazy system where all of a sudden 25 million more people have health care and then the people who are out there busting it, sometimes 60 hours a week, wind up with their premiums doubled and their coverage cut in half. It’s the craziest thing in the world,” Clinton said on Monday according to CNN.
He tried to rebut criticism from the left on Tuesday, telling an Ohio crowd, “Look, the Affordable Health Care Act [sic] did a world of good, and the 50-something efforts to repeal it that the Republicans have staged were a terrible mistake. We, for the first time in our history, at least are providing insurance to more than 90% of our people.”
“But there is a group of people — mostly small business owners and employees — who make just a little too much money to qualify for Medicaid expansion or for the tax incentives who can’t get affordable health insurance premiums in a lot of places,” Clinton continued. “And the reason is they’re not in big pools. So they have no bargaining power.”
Clinton’s criticisms of the Affordable Care Act mirror concerns of conservatives before the law was passed. Adverse selection, in which people who are already sick sign up for health insurance while the healthy pay the fine instead, played a large role in driving up prices. Obamacare depended on enlisting young, healthy people to pay the costs for people were older and unhealthy. That has not happened. The problem is so bad that many health insurance companies are choosing to leave the market completely, rather than continue to absorb losses.
As prices increase, companies are passing more costs along to their employees or dropping health insurance coverage altogether. If you still have an employer health insurance plan, you’re probably paying a higher monthly premium as well as higher deductibles and copayments. Many companies, particularly small businesses, are opting out of providing health insurance altogether.
Those who still have insurance may not be able to go to the doctor. As Clinton pointed out, 25 million more people now have insurance, but there are just as many doctors as there were before Obamacare. This increased demand has caused a doctor shortage in many areas. The Fiscal Times estimates that “demand for physicians will grow by 11 percent to 17 percent through 2025, while the number of doctors will increase only by 4 percent to 12 percent.” It’s going to get hard to get an appointment.
The original goal of the Affordable Care Act was to insure everyone in the United States. Has it been successful? The Kaiser Foundation estimates that the uninsured rate declined from a high of 18.2 percent in 2010 to 10.5 percent in 2015. Even after the devastation wrought by the ACA, more than 28 million Americans remain uninsured. The most common reason for not having insurance according to Kaiser is that it costs too much.
What is the Clinton solution to the continuing healthcare crisis? Last January, Hillary Clinton told a crowd in Iowa, “It was called Hillarycare before it was called Obamacare. I don’t want to start over.”
Bill hints that she won’t start over. Slate has a quote that many articles covering the story didn’t include that hints at where the Clintons want to go. “So here’s the simplest thing,” Bill Clinton said, “Figure out an affordable rate and let people use that, something that won’t undermine your quality of life, won’t interfere with your ability to make expenses, wont’ interfere with your ability to save for your kids’ college education, and let people buy into Medicare or Medicaid.”
So the Clintonian answer to the health insurance crisis is more government. Bill would let people buy into a Medicare and Medicaid at “an affordable rate” that probably has no relationship to the market rate for insurance. This can be understood as price controls and a public option.
Voters should know that a third of doctors are already not accepting new Medicare patients according to Investor’s Business Daily. Both programs are also in financial trouble already. Medicare’s trust fund is projected to be insolvent in 15 years. Medicaid, whose cost is split by the states and the federal government, already represents 20 percent of state budgets even before the costs of the Obamacare Medicaid expansion kick in.
Bill’s idea does not address the economic problems of Obamacare at all. It just changes the insurance provider from private companies to the government. In other words, Hillarycare would impoverish the government the way Obamacare has broken the insurance companies.