Jimmy Kimmel is a late-night TV host who dropped out of college to take a radio gig. That’s not a career move that I would recommend, but in Kimmel’s case, it has worked out OK. Kimmel also happens to have an infant son, Billy, who was born with a serious life-threatening heart defect.
Bill Cassidy is a U.S. senator who sits on the Senate Committee for Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, which deals extensively with health-care policy. He is also a physician, and the co-sponsor and main author of the Graham-Cassidy bill that Republicans are rallying behind as their last real chance to repeal Obamacare.
Given all that, it is remarkable that Kimmel, the college dropout and late-night TV host, knows a lot more about Cassidy’s bill and what it would do than does Cassidy himself. At the very least, Kimmel is a whole lot more honest about it.
For example, Kimmel claims that the bill will strip insurance coverage from tens of millions of Americans, potentially leaving families without access to life-saving care. Cassidy claims that if his bill becomes law, the number of Americans with health insurance would actually increase.
However, there is no universe in which Cassidy’s statement could be true, no form or branch of mathematics in which it is even plausible, no mechanism by which it might become true. You cannot repeal Medicaid expansion, end subsidies for individual coverage and also slash spending on traditional Medicaid, and by doing so somehow expand the number of people who have coverage. It is an insult to the intelligence of a 6-year-old to even suggest such a thing.
In Cassidy’s home state of Louisiana, for example, the governor has warned that 430,000 people would lose coverage by the repeal of Medicaid expansion alone.
Thanks to Medicaid expansion, “we’re saving lives, money and investing in our people to ensure they are able to receive quality health care,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said. “Importantly, Louisiana’s uninsured rate has dropped to nearly 10 percent. Undoing this progress would negatively impact our citizens and our economy.”
Cassidy also claims that his bill maintains Obamacare protections for the many millions of Americans who have pre-existing conditions. Kimmel bluntly accuses Cassidy of lying to his face about that provision.
Under Cassidy’s bill, states can get a waiver to the current ban against charging more to those with pre-existing conditions. That much is crystal clear. However, Cassidy points to another phrase in the bill that says such waivers can be granted only if people with pre-existing conditions are given “access” to “adequate” and “affordable” insurance.
What do those terms mean? The legislation doesn’t say, and without clear definitions the provision is so vague as to be legally unenforceable. Those words would mean whatever people like Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price say they mean, and that’s a terrible thing to bet your child’s life upon.
Health insurers — the people whose business it is to know such things — agree with Kimmel.
“The bill contains provisions that would allow states to waive key consumer protections, as well as undermine safeguards for those with pre-existing medical conditions,” says Blue Cross/Blue Shield in announcing its opposition to the bill.
Reforms “must guarantee access to coverage for ALL Americans, including those with pre-existing conditions. No one should be denied or priced out of affordable coverage because of their health status,” says America’s Health Insurance Plans, the insurance industry lobbying group. According to AHIP, the Graham-Cassidy bill fails that basic test.
This is, in short, a terrible bill. It is the work product of a party that has lost any capacity or even interest in making public policy, a party that had seven full years to produce a workable alternative to Obamacare and yet squandered every last minute of it. And the best gauge of this bill’s deficiency is the scale, scope and audacity of the lies being told to defend it.