By Jeff Mason and Steve Holland
NEW YORK (Reuters) - President Barack Obama will turn to his unofficial "secretary of explaining stuff," former President Bill Clinton, on Tuesday to help with a final push to extol the benefits of U.S. healthcare reform before new insurance exchanges go live on October 1.
Obama, who is in New York for the United Nations General Assembly, will meet with his most recent Democratic predecessor at the Clinton Global Initiative, a conference where the two men will talk about Obama's healthcare reform law, which Republicans continue to try to repeal.
A White House official noted that the conversation will take place one week before the new exchanges open, which the White House says will allow millions of Americans who do not have insurance to sign up for plans that fit their budgets.
The event also comes one day after the 20th anniversary of Clinton's call for healthcare reform in a speech to Congress.
Clinton's effort to overhaul the U.S. healthcare system while president, spearheaded by his wife, former first lady Hillary Clinton, failed in Congress, dealing them a major political blow. But it called attention to the plight of millions of Americans who did not have insurance.
That history will set the stage for Tuesday's event.
"The format of their conversation is designed to foster an enthusiastic and candid discussion between our current president and the last president to make tackling healthcare a priority, who share a deep passion for improving the quality and cost of care for American families and businesses," a White House official said.
Hillary Clinton, who is a potential presidential candidate in 2016 and served as secretary of state during Obama's first term, will introduce the two men.
Obama dubbed the former president his "secretary of explaining stuff" during the 2012 campaign. Clinton's aggressive outreach on behalf of Obama is credited with helping him vanquish Republican candidate Mitt Romney and win re-election.
Obama's attendance at the Clinton Global Initiative is also a boost for the Clintons. The couple could seek his backing if Hillary Clinton decides to run for president in three years.
Republicans say the law will hurt the U.S. economy and give government too great a hand in its citizens' healthcare choices.
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a bill last week that would fund the U.S. government only if the law is ransacked.
Democrats - including Clinton and Obama - are trying to refute that criticism.
"Their conversation is expected to highlight how the healthcare law is creating more choice, competition and affordability for American consumers, how partnerships with the private sector are helping make it work, and how and why access to quality, affordable healthcare is a global priority for citizens abroad, as well as here at home," the White House official said of the planned chat between Obama and Bill Clinton.
The White House has enlisted the former president already this month to help pitch the law to Americans, many of whom remain skeptical or confused by it.
During a speech earlier this month, Bill Clinton made the case that Americans would be better off with the law, dubbed Obamacare, and urged opponents to make the best of it.
The White House said the Clinton-Obama discussion on Tuesday would kick off a six-month public awareness campaign about the law, coinciding with the October-March period during which Americans can sign up for new healthcare options.
Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, first lady Michelle Obama, and cabinet members will hold further events this week as part of the publicity campaign.
(Editing by Lisa Shumaker)