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A head-scratching leaked email exchange showed Hillary Clinton discussing the 'unraveling of the ACA'

Barack Obama Hillary Clinton
Barack Obama Hillary Clinton

(President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonJoe Raedle/Getty Images)

Over the past few weeks, the WikiLeaks organization has published the stolen emails of Hillary Clinton campaign manager John Podesta, revealing some of the inner workings of the Clinton campaign.

One email exchange released this week between Clinton and top campaign advisers appeared to show the Democratic nominee discussing the "unraveling of the ACA," also known as Affordable Care Act or Obamacare.

Campaign adviser Ann O'Leary asked Clinton about her support for the so-called Cadillac tax built into the ACA, suggesting that she come out for a partial repeal. The Cadillac tax would impose a surcharge on high-cost health insurance plans with expansive coverage that employers provide for their workers.

Since many unions had advocated for getting these high-quality plans for their workers, these traditionally Democratic-leaning groups were opposed to the tax, leading to bipartisan support for a delay or repeal of that aspect of the ACA.

In Clinton's response, the nominee appeared to support a Cadillac-tax repeal bill written by Republicans. Here's the email in its entirety. (The Clinton campaign has not confirmed the authenticity of the emails.)

"Given the politics now w bipartisan support including [Democratic New York Sen. Chuck] Schumer, I'll support repeal w[ith] 'sense of the Senate' that revenues would have to be found. I'd be open to a range of options to do that. But we have to be careful that the R version passes which begins the unraveling of the ACA."

Clinton's supporters, and critics, have found a few different ways to interpret her comments. Jeffrey Anderson, a Hudson Institute senior fellow and opponent of Obamacare, suggested that Clinton was advocating for the "unraveling" of the ACA altogether. The suggested reason: more support to pass a public option — in which the government would offer its own insurance to people to compete with private insurers — or a single-payer system, in which the government is the only insurance provider, similar to systems in the UK or Canada.

Clinton has advocated for a public option for years. Her plan during her husband Bill Clinton's presidential administration in the 1990s, colloquially called HillaryCare, was eventually defeated by Republicans but bears many resemblances to the ACA.

obama obamacare doctors
obama obamacare doctors

(U.S. President Barack Obama greets doctors from across the country after making remarks on the need for health insurance reform in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, October 5, 2009.Jim Young/Reuters)

The second option is that Clinton simply misspoke. The email directly after hers in the chain, from foreign-policy adviser Jake Sullivan, read:

"Your point on R version is key. Our Bernie contrast rests on defending ACA, so crucial to cast this as a fix and to be on the lookout for R efforts to make this a Trojan Horse for broader dismantling of the ACA."

Sanders, during the primaries, was more critical of Obamacare and loudly called for a government-sponsored plan. Chelsea Clinton, the eventual nominee's daughter, memorably attacked him for this in the primary, saying Sanders wanted to "dismantle Medicare" and "empower Republican governors to take away Medicaid," despite Sanders plan not really doing either.

Put another way, reading into the context that comes with Sullivan's email, Clinton fat-fingered an email and was trying to establish a middle-ground between Sanders and more progressive Democrats and the Republican position. This version also suggests she was perhaps warning about the Republican version of the Cadillac-tax repeal bill because it had the potential to unravel Obamacare.

Throughout the campaign, Clinton has repeatedly expressed her support for the ACA on the trail and called for improvements and strengthening of the law.

The Clinton campaign didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

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