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Clinton Defends Reform Law in DNC Speech

Clinton directly answered many of Republicans' leading criticisms of the law, including the projection that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will cut $716 billion from Medicare.

September 6, 2012

In the highest-profile speech yet at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, former President Bill Clinton offered a detailed defense of the 2010 healthcare law that explicitly endorsed cuts to providers.

Clinton directly answered many of Republicans' leading criticisms of the law, including the projection that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will cut $716 billion from Medicare.

"Here's what really happened. There were no cuts to benefits. None," Clinton said. "What the president did was save money by cutting unwarranted subsidies to providers and insurance companies that weren't making people any healthier."

Clinton said the law used those cuts and savings to close the doughnut hole in the Medicare drug program and to extend by eight years, to 2024, the solvency Medicare Hospital Insurance Trust Fund.

"So President Obama and the Democrats didn't weaken Medicare, they strengthened it," Clinton said.

Clinton's explanation of the cuts that the healthcare law will make to Medicare was unusual because the provider cuts are usually glossed over by Democratic defenses of the cuts, despite the fact that more than one-third of the cuts will come from reductions in hospital payments.

Hospitals have pressed to varying degrees since enactment of the law for those cuts to be rescinded. And Republicans have maintained that it is impossible to cut providers by that much and not impact Medicare beneficiaries' access to care.

Clinton countered Republican criticisms of the cuts by highlighting their inclusion in the budgets Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan authored as chairman of the House Budget Committee. Republicans have said the budgets included the healthcare law's cuts only because the chamber's rules require the documents to be based on existing law.

Other provisions of the law that Clinton highlighted included the more than $1 billion in premium refunds that insurers said they returned to consumers for exceeding the law's allowable ratios of administrative spending; requiring insurers to carry adult children up to age 26 on their parents' policies; and the provision of preventive care for Medicare beneficiaries without co-pays.

"So are we all better off because President Obama fought for it and passed it?" Clinton said about the law. "You bet we are."

Clinton also criticized the Republican ticket's call for reducing Medicaid's growth rate by transforming it from an open entitlement to a series of state block grants. Such spending reductions would most impact the two-thirds of its spending on nursing home care for seniors and on care for people with disabilities.

"I don't know how those families are going to deal with it," he said about families with disabled children in the program. "We can't let it happen."

Rich Daly writes for Modern Healthcare, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, email editors@workforce.com.

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