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Americas

Bill Clinton presses Obama to keep healthcare pledge

© Photo: AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-11-13

Former US president Bill Clinton weighed in on US healthcare reform on Tuesday, saying that President Barack Obama should keep his pledge to allow Americans to keep their existing health coverage, even if it means changing the law.

Former US president Bill Clinton weighed in on the crisis over President Barack Obama’s troubled new healthcare programme on Tuesday, saying that Obama should find a way to let people keep their health coverage, even if it means changing the law.

Clinton said that Obama should stick by his promise that if Americans liked their existing health insurance plans they should be able to keep them, despite thousands being told by insurance firms they could not.

"I personally believe, even if it takes a change in the law, that the president should honour the commitment the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they've got," Clinton said in an interview with US news website OZY.com, published on Tuesday.

The former president, a Democrat who has helped Obama promote the three-year-old law, becomes the latest in Obama's party to urge the president to live up to his promise.

Obama said last week he was sorry to Americans who had been told by insurance firms that their coverage will be cancelled because of the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.

Millions of Americans have received insurance cancellation letters since the scheme launched on October 1. That, coupled with the troubled launch of the health care law's enrolment website, has prompted Republican critics and frustrated Democrats to seek corrections in the law.

Republicans seized on Clinton's comments, framing them as another disaster for the botched rollout of Obamacare.

‘Better off with this law than without it’

The White House chose to highlight other assessments by Clinton about the law.

"I think it's important to note that president Clinton, in that interview, also said, and I quote, 'the big lesson is that we are better off with this law than without it,'" White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

Carney admitted that figures to be released shortly showing enrolment for the new scheme would be disappointing, owing to the malfunctioning website.

"I can guarantee you that the number that is released will be lower than we had hoped and anticipated because of the problems with the website," Carney said.

"That is why it is so important to focus our energies on fixing the problems."

The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that fewer than 50,000 people had signed up for private insurance as of last week – well below the administration's target of 500,000 enrollees for October.

Obamacare, which gets the United States closer than ever before to universal health insurance, is the president's signature domestic political achievement.

The White House argues that it includes many significant advances – including a prohibition on insurance firms barring coverage to those with pre-existing health conditions – and will be popular once it is fully implemented.

Despite Republican charges that Obamacare is a chaotic example of the folly of government intervention in the health care market, Obama allies insist that the website problems are distracting from the overall success of the law.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2013-11-13

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