Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Louisiana Republican, on Wednesday responded to late-night TV host Jimmy Kimmel’s accusation that the senator lied to him about his Obamacare replacement legislation.
Kimmel, whose infant son was born with a life-threatening heart condition, said that Cassidy’s new bill, the Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson legislation, fails to protect people with preexisting conditions — like his son — from lifetime caps on insurance coverage, wouldn’t lower premiums for middle-class families, and fails to provide coverage for all.
Cassidy dismissed Kimmel’s charges on CNN Wednesday morning.
“I am sorry he does not understand,” Cassidy told host Chris Cuomo of CNN’s “New Day.” “Under Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson, more people will have coverage and we protect those with pre-existing conditions. States like Maine, Virginia, Florida, Missouri, there will be … billions more dollars to provide health insurance coverage for those in those states who have been passed by Obamacare.”
Cuomo countered Cassidy, noting that critics argue the new bill would allow states to set their own rules for insurance companies.
“It’s not what it is now where you cannot allow insurance companies to cherry pick and punish people for preexisting conditions, so the protection is not the same, senator, on that one point,” Cuomo said.
But Cassidy insisted the protections under the new bill are “absolutely the same” as those under Obamacare, formally known as the Affordable Care Act.
“There is a specific provision that says that if a state applies for a waiver, it must ensure that those with preexisting conditions have affordable and adequate coverage,” Cassidy said.
Cuomo then noted that the “schedule of what people might pay” won’t be the same for certain people.
Cassidy then said that some of that information is being circulated by “those who wish to preserve Obamacare.”
“They’re doing everything they can to discredit the alternative,” Cassidy said.
After Kimmel delivered an impassioned retelling of his son’s emergency open-heart surgery in May, Cassidy came on Kimmel’s show and said that he would make sure any Obamacare replacement passes the “Jimmy Kimmel test” — a phrase the senator coined — protecting those with pre-existing conditions from lifetime caps.
But Kimmel argued on Tuesday night that Cassidy’s new legislation doesn’t pass the test.
“Not only did this bill fail the Jimmy Kimmel test, it failed the Bill Cassidy test,” the host said. “Listen, healthcare is complicated, it’s boring, I don’t want to talk about it, the details are confusing, and that’s what these guys are relying on. They’re counting on you to be so overwhelmed with all the information that you just trust them to take care of you, but they’re not taking care of you, they’re taking care of the people who give them money.”
In Cassidy’s bill, most federal healthcare funding is handed to states in a large, up-front chunk called a block grant. States can then apply for waivers that allow states to relax some of Obamacare’s regulations to bring down costs.
While the new bill does not allow states to waive the requirement that keeps insurers from rejecting people with preexisting conditions altogether, the waivers could end up allowing insurers to charge sick people drastically more money for coverage, essentially pricing them out of the market.
For that reason, Kimmel said the bill not only failed Cassidy’s original Kimmel test but also created a new one.
“This new bill actually does pass the Jimmy Kimmel test — but a different Jimmy Kimmel test,” the late-night host said. “With this one, your child with a preexisting condition will get the care he needs if, and only if, his father is Jimmy Kimmel. Otherwise, you might be screwed.”
Kimmel said Republicans were trying to slip the bill through before the September 30 deadline (after which a bill would be subject to a Democratic filibuster).
In addition to taking issue with the content of the new bill, Kimmel called out Cassidy specifically.
“A senator named Bill Cassidy from Louisiana was on my show and he wasn’t very honest,” Kimmel said, adding that he “just lied right to my face.”
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders also responded to Kimmel’s criticism of the GOP bill, telling “Fox & Friends” on Wednesday that while she respects Kimmel’s advocacy for his son, Obamacare is “collapsing” and the Republican replacement bill is a “great step forward.”
“Look, I certainly respect the position that he’s in as a parent, he’s speaking for the protection of his kid as he should do,” Sanders said. “But at the same time we have to have a program that works and we know that that’s not Obamacare — it’s simply not sustainable, it’s collapsing, there are some markets where they don’t even have providers anymore.”
Bob Bryan contributed to this report.
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