Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday hailed President Barack Obama's healthcare law for reducing the rate of uninsured Americans and vowed to defend it against Republican opposition if she wins the White House.
The Democratic presidential candidate kicked off a series of healthcare events with an embrace of the law, arguing that Republican resistance to the overhaul had hurt working families seeking to gain coverage. She credited the healthcare law with decreasing the rate of uninsured Americans to the lowest level in 50 years.
"I'm not going to let them tear up that law, kick 16 million people off their health coverage and force the country to start the healthcare debate all over again,"
Clinton said at the Louisiana Leadership Institute. "Not on my watch." She said "I want to build on the progress we've made."
Clinton's focus on healthcare comes as the share of Americans without health insurance has dipped to historically low levels due both to the law's expansion in coverage and recent economic growth. While the law's rocky rollout and longstanding GOP opposition caused Obama's party headaches, Democrats seeking to succeed him are embracing the plan and talking about ways to build upon it.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Clinton's chief Democratic rival, has called for a single-payer healthcare system and introduced legislation that would allow Medicare to use its large purchasing power to negotiate lower drug prices while allowing individuals to import prescription drugs from Canada, where the costs are cheaper.
Clinton said she would announce a plan this week to deal with "skyrocketing, out-of-pocket health costs," particularly drug prices. The plan, which she will discuss in Iowa on Tuesday, would cap how much a person pays out of pocket each month on medications.
She took a swipe at Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal in his own backyard, saying he had left more than 190,000 people who would have been eligible for Medicaid without coverage because he declined to expand the program.
"He put ideology ahead of the well-being of the people and the families in this state," she said to loud boos for Jindal in the crowd.
Jindal, who has made the repeal of the healthcare law a centerpiece of his Republican presidential campaign, said in a statement thatClinton was trying to distract voters from her use of a private email system as Obama's secretary of state and "coming to Louisiana to lecture us about the need for bigger government and socialism."
"Obamacare was sold to the American people based on lies that it would improve quality and lower costs," he said. "It has done none of that and needs to be repealed."
Clinton said Jindal's refusal to expand Medicaid disproportionately harms black Louisiana residents, and sought to contrast the state's progress with Arkansas, her former home state where she was campaigning later Monday.
Clinton said Arkansas had increased coverage through the expansion, giving health insurance to 250,000 people there. She served as the state's first lady during the late 1970s and 1970s while Bill Clinton was Arkansas governor.
The state's Medicaid expansion uses federal money to purchase private insurance for low-income residents.
The majority-Republican legislature voted to reauthorize the program another year at the behest of Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson while a committee looks at the future of the expansion.