In our opinion: Bill Clinton is right — but fix all of Obamacare's flaws

Published: Thursday, Oct. 8 2015 10:54 a.m. MDT

Former President Bill Clinton waves after the Former President Bill Clinton waves after the "Putting Jobs First" event on Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, in Roanoke, Va. (Stephanie Klein-Davis, Associated Press)

Former President Bill Clinton raised eyebrows this week when he told OZY.com that President Barack Obama needs to honor his former promises to the American people and let them keep their current health care plan if they like it.

On the rare occasions these days when politicians veer away from partisan scripts, they tend to say things that appeal to common sense. This is one of those times.

Some aspects of the Affordable Care Act would have to be changed in order to honor the president’s previous promise. That would mean opening the act up again to the legislative process.

We suggest not only doing this but also sending the part of the act that mandates employers provide contraceptive coverage back to Congress.

Removing the “contraception mandate,” as it is known, would resolve a confusing array of court decisions that are slowly wending their way to the Supreme Court. If Congress changed the law to reflect the nation’s long-held reverence for religious liberty and the freedom of conscience, it would send a powerful message to the world about the value of that basic human right.

Last week, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals reaffirmed a preliminary injunction that keeps this mandate from being enforced in Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin. As the Indiana Business Journal reported, one of the cases that led to the ruling concerned a company that makes vehicle safety systems in Wisconsin. Although the company is not owned by a religion, it successfully argued that forcing its self-insured plan to provide contraceptive coverage would violate the owner’s constitutional rights, specifically those guaranteed by the First and Fifth amendments. It also would violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.

A majority of an appeals court panel agreed, writing that the mandate “violates their (the owners’) religion.” Freedom of conscience means little if people are not allowed to exercise that conscience.

But while the 7th and 10th circuits now have held the contraception mandate illegal, the 3rd Circuit and the Federal Circuit have ruled the opposite, saying for-profit corporations have no religious rights.

Congress should clear this up now with a swift amendment to the act as it rewrites the rules allowing people more freedom in the type of insurance they may purchase.

Taken together, the false promise that people could keep their doctors and health plans, the violations of basic religious freedoms and the disastrous start to the enrollment period, in which the healthcare.gov website has been virtually unusable, all suggest the Affordable Care Act is not ready to take full effect and needs major revisions.

In an interview, Clinton told OZY.com, “The president should honor the commitment the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they’ve got.”

That will take time and a messy legislative battle, but the overwhelmingly partisan nature of the way the act originally was passed suggests such a thing is needed.

Of course, as part of that process, the full implementation of the act would have to be postponed. But even the president must acknowledge what people are clearly showing through opinion polls. His signature health care law is not ready for its debut.

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