Bill Clinton gave a robust argument in favor of a single-payer healthcare system on Monday night—but you wouldn't know it if you read the news, or paid any attention to Republican nominee Donald Trump.
Speaking at Hillary Clinton campaign rally in Flint, Michigan, the former president discussed the importance of expanding access to Medicare and Medicaid while lambasting the for-profit insurance model that overcharges people and reaps enormous profit.
"The profit-driven, market-based healthcare model based on private insurance doesn't work, and it will never work." —Dr. Ida Hellander, Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP)
"The insurance model doesn't work here," he said, "it's not like life insurance, or casualty insurance. It doesn't work."
"The current system works fine," Clinton continued, referring to President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act (ACA), "if you're eligible for Medicaid, if you're a lower-income working person; if you're already on Medicare, or if you get enough subsidies on a modest income that you can afford your health care. But the people that are getting killed in this deal are small business people and individuals who make just a little too much to get any of these subsidies."
"Why?" he asked, "because they are not organized, they don't have bargaining power with insurance companies and they are getting whacked." As Clinton explained, insurance companies assessing risk for a small pool of people "overcharge, just to make sure, and make a whopping profit off the people least able to pay."
"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," he continued.
Adding his voice to the growing call for a public option to be added to ACA, he said that the "simplest thing" is to let those individuals not eligible for subsidies buy into Medicaid and Medicare—a plan which is supported by Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and her former challenger Sen. Bernie Sanders, as well as Obama.
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After corporate media spun the remarks with the "grossly inaccurate" headline, "Bill Clinton calls Obamacare 'the craziest thing in the world,'" Trump's campaign predictably seized on the moment, issuing a statement that read: "even Democrats like Bill Clinton are coming to realize just what bad public policy ObamaCare really is."
But as Clinton himself pointed out, allowing the market to take over has left the United States with the most expensive health insurance system, with the least number of people covered. According to the most recently available U.S. Census Data, 29 million people went uninsured in 2015, including 3.7 million children, and despite ACA, deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs continued to rise.
Dr. Ida Hellander, director of policy and programs with Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), said that "when people talk about the public option, they are acknowledging that it's the public part of the program that's working."
Clinton, she told Common Dreams, "seems to understand that but he's not going all the way there," likely because Secretary Clinton has also stopped short of calling for a single-payer model. However, she points out that this is not the first time the former president has voiced support for a universal system.
Agreeing with Clinton's statement that "the insurance model doesn't work here," Hellander added: "The profit-driven, market-based healthcare model based on private insurance doesn't work, and it will never work."