Hillary Rodham Clinton will begin filling in details this week of her proposal to tweak the Affordable Care Act, and she will attempt to use Republican presidential candidates’ opposition to the health-care-expansion law against them.
Clinton plans a series of events in Louisiana, Arkansas and Iowa to needle Republicans over their opposition to a law that has greatly reduced the number of uninsured Americans, her campaign said. Some details of her strategy were provided exclusively to The Washington Post ahead of her first health-care-related event on Monday.
The focus on health care represents a shift for national Democrats and a full embrace of a law that had a troubled rollout and has not always polled well. Unlike in the 2012 election, when many Democrats tiptoed around their support for Obama’s namesake law, Clinton is making it a central part of her argument that she should succeed him.
Clinton frequently praises the 2010 law, often known as Obamacare, but says it does not go far enough. She wants to address the quickly rising cost of prescription drugs, for example, and has said she is examining possible changes to the Cadillac tax, as it is often called, on premium health-care plans. She also often says that mental health care and substance-abuse treatment need to be simpler and cheaper to obtain. Several Republicans competing for the 2016 nomination have said they would repeal the law immediately upon taking office.
Nearly 9 million people were added to the health insurance rolls last year, according to Census Bureau data released this month. That reduced the number of uninsured Americans to slightly more than 1 in 10. That is down from just over 16 percent in 2009, when President Obama took office with a pledge to pass a national health-care mandate.
“As the latest census numbers show, the number of uninsured continues to fall and Americans are now seeing, hearing and feeling the full benefits of the Affordable Care Act,” a Clinton campaign official said Saturday. “Hillary Clinton believes protecting, defending and improving the Affordable Care Act is a top issue for this campaign, so she plans to highlight its benefits and go on offense against Republicans for their never-ending push to repeal.”
Clinton is hitching herself to the ACA as one of the most identifiable elements of the Obama legacy that she would seek to preserve and improve as president. As with Obama economic policies that she says rescued the country from the Great Recession, Clinton is arguing that she would be the best steward of successful policies for the next administration.
She will cite Obama administration figures showing that more than 16 million Americans have coverage now than when Obama took office.
Clinton will highlight Louisiana Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal’s opposition to the law during a political event in Baton Rouge on Monday. Jindal, a low-polling 2016 presidential candidate, has declined to expand Medicaid under the ACA, which his critics contend has beggared hospitals and helped force the closure of emergency room services at a Baton Rouge hospital this year.
Jindal has said he would repeal the law and replace it with a conservative plan that would give states control over Medicaid and create a new insurance pool for high-risk people.
Later on Monday, Clinton will be in Little Rock to contrast Jindal’s program in Louisiana with Arkansas, where Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson has opted to accept the Medicaid expansion under the ACA.
And on Tuesday, Clinton will release some details of her health-care proposal in Des Moines. The campaign did not provide specifics on those proposals but said she would address rising prescription drug costs and other patient out-of-pocket expenses not fully covered by the ACA.
The Clinton campaign will also launch an online petition against repeal of the ACA in an effort to show grass-roots support for the law, which has often been more popular in practice than in theory.
The Supreme Court upheld a key portion of the law in June, preserving what is likely to be Obama’s signature domestic achievement. Clinton enthusiastically cheered that ruling in a signed Twitter message.
“Yes!” she wrote. The ruling “affirms what we know is true in our hearts & under the law: Health insurance should be affordable & available to all.”
But the next president will inherit some of the less palatable elements of the ACA, which takes effect in phases. The next fight is likely to center on the “Cadillac tax,” as it’s often called, on the most generous health-care plans.
The provision is a key way that the law would contain costs, but it is unpopular with both employers and labor unions. Clinton said in a labor union survey earlier this year that she is looking at ways to ensure fairness.