'Secretary of Explaining Stuff' sells Obamacare
September 4th, 2013
09:22 AM ET
10 years ago

'Secretary of Explaining Stuff' sells Obamacare

Updated 9/4/13 1:25 p.m. ET
(CNN) – Former President Bill Clinton, who President Barack Obama once joked should be appointed “Secretary of Explaining Stuff,” was professorial, lengthy and detailed in a Wednesday speech dedicated to clarifying the controversial – and still misunderstood – Affordable Care Act.

Although the former president used a majority of the speech to detail the strengths and weaknesses of Obamacare – he repeatedly told the audience at his presidential library in Little Rock, Arkansas the phone number and website that would help people find Obamacare coverage – he ended his speech with a plea for bipartisanship from Congress.

“I hope the Congress will follow the lead of the example set by many, many Republicans and Democrats at the state level,” who Clinton said had accepted Obamacare as the law of the land and begun working to implement it.

“We all get paid to show up for work and we need all hands on deck here,” Clinton concluded. “The health of our people, the security and the stability of our families and the strength of our economy are all riding on getting healthcare reform right and doing it well. That means we have to do it together.”

The speech, which Clinton noted was scripted, was a departure for the former president who usually uses a more conversational and off-the-cuff speaking style.

“I actually wrote this whole thing out,” Clinton joked near the top of his remarks.
During the speech, Clinton acknowledged that the law had some flaws – you can’t change a complex system like American healthcare without creating problems, Clinton said – but said that benefits outweigh issues like the size small business tax credits and the effect the law will have on families with a sole breadwinner.

“We are going to do better working together and learning together than we will trying over and over again to repeal the law or rooting for the law to fail,” Clinton said.

This is not the first time the White House has turned to Clinton to help sell policy.
In 2010, the former president held the floor in the White House briefing room for nearly 30 minutes to tout a tax cut deal reached with Republicans and just last year, he delivered a passionate defense of Obama administration policies, including Obamacare, at the Democratic National Convention.

"I think they've used him wisely and sparingly," said Matt McKenna, a Clinton spokesman.

Still, selling the health care overhaul – a law vital to Obama's legacy – could prove to be a big job, with polls showing the American public is still undecided on the law.

Clinton’s charitable foundation billed the speech as discussing "the critical role a high quality, affordable and accessible health care system plays in the United States and any country's economic and social well being.”

While Clinton often mentions the ACA in speeches, today's address will be the first one focusing entirely on the law, McKenna said.

The pitch comes less than a month before the opening of the law's insurance marketplaces, the health care exchanges that form the core of the Act. Those exchanges need to enroll young, healthy participants to keep premiums low, but a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll showed that while 51% of Americans don't have enough information to understand how the law will affect them, the number is even higher – 62% – for the uninsured and for adults under 25, key groups the administration needs to reach.

"President Clinton's speech is part of ongoing outreach efforts around the Affordable Care Act about a month ahead of Marketplaces opening. These efforts will help to ensure that Americans know that there will be a simple way to get health insurance that will fit your needs, lifestyle, and budget at any income level, starting this fall," a White House official said. In it, he will "lay out in clear terms the benefits the law is already providing to millions of Americans and what new options will become available to consumers when the Health Insurance Marketplaces open on October 1."

The White House says Wednesday's speech is the first of a number of high profile events aimed at raising awareness about the three-year-old law. In addition to Clinton, the Obama team is deploying a number of administration officials across the government to promote and explain the law, along with DJs, librarians, faith leaders, pharmacies, celebrities and insurance companies, the official said.

McKenna said Obama asked Clinton to speak on the issue and the Clinton's foundation decided what he would say and where. About 250 people are expected to attend the event, including representatives from Arkansas' health care community, the Arkansas Department of Health, Arkansas legislators and state officials, members of the business community, students from the Clinton School of Public Service and groups affiliated with the president's foundation, like the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and the Clinton Health Matters Initiative.

The White House said Clinton is expected to continue to raise public awareness around the law during the critical months for open enrollment. The former president's spokesman said he would continue to be a voice for quality, affordable, accessible health care, but would not say whether other speeches were scheduled.

The big push comes as Republicans, like Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, continue to try to defund a bill Cruz called "the biggest job killer in American history," an effort that's all but certain to fail in the face of opposition from the president and the Democratic-controlled Senate.

It also comes a day after Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, another GOP darling, sent a letter to Health and Human Services Sec. Kathleen Sebelius blasting the administration for plans to spend $8.7 million in taxpayer dollars to advertise the law across the country in the coming months.

"This blatant misuse of federal dollars to promote a fundamentally flawed law is extremely concerning, especially considering the extensive unknowns surrounding the coming launch and implementation of ObamaCare," Rubio wrote in the September 3 letter. "Until critical questions can be answered regarding the availability and type of health insurance to be provided by ObamaCare, it is unconscionable to spend taxpayer dollars to promote and advertise ObamaCare plans that have yet to be finalized."

Filed under: Bill Clinton • Health care
soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. O'drama ya Mama

    People are usually scared of something they dont understand. Hopefully Clinton can make things more clear for those that dont understand

    September 4, 2013 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  2. Rudy NYC

    It would seem that the ACA will become someone's Waterloo. It's only a question of who. Right now, the Republicans are fighting for a pyrrhic victory, but please don't tell them that. They'd tell you that they're fighting for their values, or some other noble nonsense.

    Whatever their reasons, I'd just like to point out that no matter what they call it, it's what *they* want, which isn't always the same as what you want or what is best for you, personally. It's what *they* want, and it's an extremely selfish position to take bacause they willfully ignore any alternative. "My way or the highway." Such people make for bad policians because you are supposed to represent the people, not represent what you've told the people is what's best for them.

    September 4, 2013 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  3. Data Driven

    Fine. Three years too late, though.

    September 4, 2013 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  4. Fair is Fair

    If it takes a Rhodes Scholar to explain it, what are the chances Joe Sixpack is going to understand it?

    September 4, 2013 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  5. Richard Long

    As millions of more tax dollars continue to be flushed down the toilet by this debacle known as Obamacare...

    September 4, 2013 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  6. Hector Slagg

    No doubt if you try hard enough you can convince yourself of anything. P.T. Barnum recognized this trait very well. Maybe Bill Clinton is the RE-Incarnation of P.T. Barnum.

    September 4, 2013 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  7. Thomas

    Let Randy explane things for the GOP.

    Rand Paul faced two malpractice lawsuits between 1993 and 2010; he was cleared in one case while the other was settled f
    for $50,000

    September 4, 2013 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  8. NOWAR

    we have a very slick president who is used to getting what he wants. He is going to ask congress for
    approval but not the American people. If this is a democracy shouldn't the American people have the final

    September 4, 2013 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  9. What's in that tea anyway?

    Go get 'em bubba! You've got some work to do because we've got some GOP/Tea folks that aren't the smartest cookies...1) believing its better people go with no insurance and simply walk into the emergency room without insurance ...2) believe is ok that children that reach life-time caps should be dropped from insurance coverage...3) believe its better that 26 year olds can't stay on their parent's insurance 4) believe that women should be charged more for insurance since they have a pre-existing condition of being female, even those that have been victims of abuse 5) believe the insurance companies should have the right to drop anyone from insurance because of pre-existing condition. 6) and believe, that an insurance company should not be forced to spend 90% on care for patients...but rather allow executives to continue receiving huge bonuses while people are capped for their health coverage.

    I wish these Tea People had common sense...but Bubba, you ARE the Sec. of Explaining stuff – go get 'em

    September 4, 2013 11:01 am at 11:01 am |