Kimmel — who had allied himself with Cassidy after the senator famously proposed a “Jimmy Kimmel test” for health reform — blasted the Louisiana Republican’s last-ditch Obamacare repeal-and-replace bill in a seven-minute monologue on Tuesday night. While Cassidy had pledged to protect people with pre-existing conditions like Kimmel’s infant son, who was born with a serious heart condition, the proposal Cassidy co-authored with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) wouldn’t live up to those promises, Kimmel said.
He then listed four pledges that Cassidy made when he appeared on Kimmel’s show in May, including a promise to lower health costs for Americans and to oppose insurance companies’ lifetime caps on coverage that Kimmel said would no longer be guaranteed under the new legislation.
“Health care’s complicated [and] it’s boring; I don’t want to talk about it [and] the details are confusing,” Kimmel said in his monologue. “And that’s what these guys are relying on. … They’re taking care of the people who give them money, like insurance companies.”
Cassidy countered Wednesday that the talk-show host didn’t grasp the nuances of his legislation. “I am sorry he does not understand,” the senator told CNN on Wednesday morning. “More people will have coverage, and we protect those with pre-existing conditions,” citing a provision in the bill that states would have to ensure certain protections for individuals.
Graham on Wednesday defended his colleague, telling NBC News that Kimmel’s monologue was “absolute garbage” and parroted “liberal talking points.”
Kimmel “went on national TV and called this man, who has worked for the underprivileged and health care all of his life, a liar and I think that’s inappropriate,” Graham said.
President Donald Trump weighed in on Twitter on Wednesday night, saying that he wouldn’t back Graham-Cassidy if it didn’t have sufficient protections for patients with pre-existing conditions: “It does! A great Bill. Repeal & Replace,” Trump tweeted. Later, Trump offered more personal support for Cassidy: “Senator (Doctor) Bill Cassidy is a class act who really cares about people and their Health(care), he doesn’t lie-just wants to help people!”
But experts say that Cassidy and Graham’s bill can’t guarantee those protections and that Kimmel’s assessment was basically accurate because of the flexibility the bill gives states to set up their own health care systems. For example, health insurers could hike premiums for patients with pre-existing conditions if their states obtain waivers from Obamacare regulations — as Kimmel said.
Cassidy’s plan “would pave the way for insurers to deny coverage to people with a history of medical conditions,” five HIV/AIDS groups warned in a joint statement on Tuesday.
The bill would also roll back the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion and make other funding changes, like converting Obamacare funds into block grants and ending traditional Medicaid as an open-ended entitlement that would force states to choose whether to cut Medicaid enrollment, benefits or payments to providers — or else raise taxes.
“Graham-Cassidy, like the previous Senate ‘repeal and replace’ proposals, takes a fiscal crowbar to Medicaid’s knees,” warned Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families. Those cuts could disproportionately affect children, program director Joan Alker added.
“Kimmel did not overstate the impact,” Alker said. “If Graham-Cassidy becomes law, there is no guarantee a child born with a congenital heart defect will get the coverage they need. It would depend on where they live, but even states with good intentions would struggle to protect children with the massive cuts to Medicaid included in this bill.”