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Bill Clinton: Road to health care reform easier now

  • Story Highlights
  • Clinton says President Obama's plan less controversial than plan he pushed in 1993
  • Obama's plan offers chance to buy into same coverage as federal employees
  • "We have a simpler, clearer path to the future," Clinton says
  • Obama plan has advantage of undergoing fine-tuning during the primary, he says
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(CNN) -- Former President Bill Clinton said Wednesday that overhauling the nation's health care system should be easier now than when he tried in the early '90s, despite the current financial doldrums.

Bill Clinton says fewer obstacles to health care reform exist now compared to when he was president.

Bill Clinton says fewer obstacles to health care reform exist now compared to when he was president.

"I think that the consensus is overwhelming," Clinton said in an interview with Dr. Sanjay Gupta taped for CNN's "Larry King Live."

"The politics and the economics are much better now and the policies are better," he said. "They've made advances over where we were."

In 1993, Clinton pushed for a universal health care plan, with his wife, then-first lady Hillary Clinton, heading a task force on the issue. Small-business groups, doctors, the insurance industry and congressional Republicans lined up to fight the plan, which was officially declared dead in Congress the next year.

President Obama's plan, which offers people the chance to buy into the same health plan federal government employees use, avoids some of the more controversial aspects of that effort.

"We have a simpler, clearer path to the future than we did when I was there," Clinton said. Video Watch Clinton discuss health care reform »

"You don't have to have an employer mandate. You don't have to have a tax increase now," he said. "I think the obstacles are less than they were."

Bill Clinton on 'King'
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Those differences have made doctors, small-business owners and even some in the insurance industry more open to reform, Clinton said.

Plus, Democrats now hold comfortable majorities in both the House and Senate, meaning fewer Republican votes are needed to reach the 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster in the Senate.

Clinton said Obama is well-situated to handle the fight for health care reform, in part because of the fine-tuning his plans went through during his Democratic nomination fight with now-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

He cited a health care forum in which Obama, Clinton and others spelled out their plans, opening them up to criticism from their opponents and creating the opportunity to continue improving them.

"By the time the primary was winnowed down to two candidates, there was some difference on how universal the coverage would be, but Hillary's plan and then-Sen. Obama's plan looked pretty close," Clinton said. "The president then made it very clear he was going to pursue this."

Tough economic times shouldn't hinder reform, Clinton said.

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"I believe that health care and education and energy are all economic issues," he said.

"For many people, many working families in America, before the financial crisis, the economic problem they had was health care," he said. "Health care was driving the majority of the bankruptcies in this country. It was keeping parents up late at night."

All About Health Care PolicyBarack ObamaBill ClintonHillary Clinton

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