Clinton: Government should 'honor' health care pledge

President Barack Obama should consider changes to his health care law to honor his pledge to allow consumers to keep their health care plans if they so desire, former President Bill Clinton said in an interview released Tuesday.

Clinton told the website OZY that the implementation of the Affordable Care Act has been, on balance, a good thing. "The big lesson is that we're better off with this law than without it," Clinton said. But he also lent some credence to GOP attacks on the law.

"I personally believe, even if it takes a change in the law, the president should honor the commitment the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they got," Clinton said.

Former President Bill Clinton laughs after doing an impression of artist Bono during the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) in New York September 25, 2013. Lucas Jackson / Reuters file photo

The former president was referencing the pledge Obama made repeatedly during his sales job of the health care law that if individuals liked their current health care plan, they could keep it. In an interview with NBC News last week the president apologized for cancellations many individual policy holders are receiving and said his administration is looking at ways to change that part of the law.

"The president has tasked his team with looking at a range of options, as he said, to make sure that nobody is put in a position where their plans have been canceled and they can't afford a better plan, even though they'd like to have a better plan," White House press secretary Jay Carney said in response to Clinton. Carney also noted Clinton's praise for the underlying law.

Republicans have seized upon instances in which consumers have had their health plans canceled since the opening of the new insurance exchanges on Oct. 1, which effectively forces those consumers into new plans, either with their current insurers or the government exchanges. Those impacted are Americans who purchase their own insurance, accounting for about five percent of Americans. Those who receive their insurance through their employers are not impacted by that part of the law. 

"These comments signify a growing recognition that Americans were misled when they were promised that they could keep their coverage under President Obama's health care law," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement. "That's why all Democrats concerned about the president's broken promise should join Republicans in voting to pass the Keep Your Health Plan Act when it comes before the House later this week. President Clinton understood that governing in a divided Washington requires a focus on common ground, and I hope President Obama will follow the former president's lead."

Moreover, the price tag for consumers forced to buy new plans has varied. For consumers eligible for subsidies under the law, the total cost of the new insurance plan might actually be lower, and they get broader coverage. For some consumers, though, the cost to them will be higher.

This Friday, the House is set to vote to approve legislation that would allow consumers to keep their health care plans if they so wished, even though those plans are regarded as substandard under current law.