President Obama and former President Bill Clinton made a joint sales pitch for Obamacare on Tuesday, looking to sway a skeptical public about the merits of the sweeping law days before officials begin enrolling consumers.
Assisted by his self-appointed “Secretary of Explaining Stuff,” Obama trumpeted his healthcare blueprint as an extension of Clinton’s own bid to pass universal medical coverage.
“You get on that exchange, you’re going to be able to purchase high-quality health insurance for less than the cost of your cellphone bill,” the president said at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York City, calling Obamacare enrollment a “good deal."
Starting Oct. 1, Americans can sign up for the Obamacare insurance exchanges. The rollout of Obama’s signature legislative achievement will have ramifications in both the 2014 and 2016 elections.
The friendly conversation between the last two Democratic presidents was an attempt to move the needle amid persistent confusion about the impact of the law and how it is being implemented.
The administration’s public relations blitz also follows a series of high-profile snags in the implementation of the law, including the delay of the employer mandate and a cap on out-of-pocket expenses for medical care.
Clinton a major supporter of the law, acknowledged some potential pitfalls that could derail Obamacare.
“This only works, for example, if young people show up,” he conceded.
If younger, healthier Americans don’t sign up for Obamacare, premiums will not drop for older, sicker patients.
Both supporters and critics of Obamacare are waging high-profile campaigns to sway public opinion, and many Democrats fear the rollout could stumble if more Americans don’t rally behind the law. Polls show a majority of Americans are confused about the law’s measures.
The political subtext of the event was also impossible to ignore.
For Obama, the healthcare overhaul will cement his legacy — for better or worse — perhaps more than any other policy enacted during his presidency.
Playing Obama’s highest-profile healthcare surrogate also gives Clinton time in the political limelight. A successful Obamacare launch would make his wife Hillary Clinton’s path to the White House infinitely easier. Clinton has yet to announce plans to run for the 2016 Democratic nomination, but polls peg her as the presumptive frontrunner.
“It’s a win-win-win,” said a longtime adviser to Bill Clinton. “Really, they all need each other right now. Obama has no better surrogate than Bill Clinton. Hillary is going to need to get in front of all the inevitable Obamacare attacks. And Bill, you know he just loves all of this.”
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton introduced both her husband and Obama.
The joint appearance with Clinton is the latest in what the administration promises will be an "aggressive six month public awareness effort."
Obama will deliver another healthcare speech Thursday in Maryland, speaking about the law in “very personal” terms, the White House said.
Obama is also slated to host a conference call with mayors and state and local officials later this week about boosting enrollment in the insurance exchanges.
The White House is openly acknowledging early hiccups in the rollout of Obamacare but is hoping to convince the public they will eventually view the health law in the same vein as Social Security or Medicare.
“The devil you know,” the president said, explaining away poor Obamacare polling numbers, “is better than the devil you don't know.”