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Ian Reifowitz Headshot

Did Bill Just Signal That Hillary Is Running Against Obama(care) in 2016?

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The story is everywhere:

Bill Clinton: "Third problem is for young people mostly, but not all young who are in the individual market whose incomes are above 400 percent of the poverty level. They were the ones who heard the promise, 'If you like what you got, you could keep it.'

I met a young man this week who has a family, two children, bought in the individual marketplace. His policy was cancelled and one was substituted for it that doubled his premium. Now, I asked him, I said, 'Same coverage?' He said, 'Yeah.' And I said, 'But are your copays and deductibles the same?' He said, 'No, they're much, much lower.' So he said, 'In the years when I use health care, I might actually save money.' But he said, 'You know, we're all young and we're all healthy.'

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

To be clear, President Clinton praised Obamacare overall, and says that we are much better off with it than without it. No Democrat, of course, could say otherwise. But Clinton's statement is designed very clearly to put distance between Obamacare and anyone named Clinton who might be, I don't know, running for political office at some unnamed time in the future. FYI, The New York Times reports that the White House opposes Clinton's idea and others like it, and mentioned the former president specifically.

And now, some Congressional Democrats are saying that if the White House doesn't come up with a solution of its own, they may back a proposal made by House Republican Fred Upton (R-MI) that would basically destroy the entire Obamacare edifice. Upton's plan would allow any and all health insurance plans that exist now to continue to exist in perpetuity--with anyone allowed to buy them -- irrespective of whether these plans meet the standards set by the Affordable Care Act -- namely, that plans must cover prenatal and contraceptive care, must cover mental health costs, cannot discriminate against people with preexisting conditions, etc. In other words, junk plans would be allowed to continue. A Democratic "source" says: "In the absence of a solution that Democrats can support from the White House, you will see more and more Democrats voting for the Upton bill." For what it's worth, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) will oppose the Upton bill. With a Republican majority in the House, however, that bill can pass without Democratic votes.

To return to the larger picture, Bill Clinton's very clever statement is about one thing, and one thing alone: positioning Hillary Clinton in 2016. She's for Obamacare (and, by extension, supportive of the Obama Administration -- but again, what Democrat wouldn't be?), but wants everyone to know that she's independent of Obama -- maybe more "centrist" than Obama?

Looking at the Democratic field, Hillary may well think that her left flank is covered, and that the only vulnerability she has in the general election is a challenge from a non-Tea Party (i.e., not over-the-cliff crazy) Republican like Chris Christie or even Jeb Bush. She leads all comers in general election polls, but her lead is smaller against those two (smallest against Christie) than the others.

Based on this analysis, she may have decided to start running to the center. Bill Clinton's call for changes to Obamacare suggests this is the case. The question is -- the specifics of Obamacare aside -- will there be a credible challenger to Hillary's left in the Democratic primary? Paging a certain senator from Massachusetts?