GOP Sen. Bill Cassidy: Our health-care plan needs to pass "the Jimmy Kimmel test"

Via Raw Story, I did not think the GOP would be setting health-care policy in 2017 based on the opinions of a former host of “The Man Show.”

We should be guided by the opinions of the former host of “Celebrity Apprentice” instead.

It’s no coincidence, I think, that Cassidy is eyeing the “Kimmel test” after telling the Times this in March about the first iteration of the House GOP’s health-care bill:

“The folks who Hillary Clinton called the ‘deplorables’ are actually those who want better coverage, who we’d be hurting if we don’t change this bill,” Mr. [X] said, noting that Mr. Trump promised “he’d give them better care.”…

“There’s a widespread recognition that the federal government, Congress, has created the right for every American to have health care,” he said, warning that to throw people off their insurance or make coverage unaffordable would only shift costs back to taxpayers by burdening emergency rooms. “If you want to be fiscally responsible, then coverage is better than no coverage.”

That quote made waves because of the part at the end, about health care being a right, but the bit at the beginning about “widespread recognition” is just as important. Cassidy’s clearly sensitive to the shifting post-ObamaCare reality of public opinion about health care and, like it or not, Kimmel’s monologue a few nights ago is a data point. The clip of him talking about his son’s heart defect and claiming that, until a few years ago, many parents couldn’t have sought treatment for it stands at more than nine million views on YouTube as of this morning and 22 million(!) on Facebook. I’d be surprised if Obama ever said anything extensive about health care outside of a State of the Union speech that drew as many eyeballs. It’s ironic that, in a sea of liberal vitriol, a heartfelt moment from one of the less political hosts will end up as the most politically influential soundbite to come out of late-night television this spring. How much “the Kimmel effect” actually moved opinion is unmeasurable, but if you’re an average American paying only half-attention to the health-care follies in Congress, having someone famous warn you that your infant might not be able to get life-saving surgery if the Republican bill passes … isn’t likely to improve your opinion of that bill.

It’s not true, of course, that an infant in need of surgery was at much higher risk of not getting that operation before ObamaCare. Hospitals have a duty to treat the sick regardless of whether they can pay. (The hospital that performed the surgery on Kimmel’s son is a charity hospital, in fact.) And chances are, if you already had health insurance, your child would have been fully covered in the pre-ObamaCare era: As Avik Roy noted recently, “the vast majority of Americans with health insurance were already in plans that were required to offer them coverage regardless of pre-existing conditions” prior to 2013. Even under the AHCA, people with preexisting conditions are subject to premium hikes based on their individual health only if (a) they live in a waiver state, (b) they’ve had a lapse in coverage recently for longer than 63 days, and (c) they’re buying insurance on the individual market rather than getting it through their job. But there are people who would fall through the cracks; even if the hospital performed the surgery on a hypothetical infant, a mom and dad who are uninsured or underinsured would end up in the poorhouse because of it. Check out this arresting graph tracking the decline in personal bankruptcies since ObamaCare first began being implemented in 2011. Some of the decline is due no doubt to an improving economy, but not all of it.

What Cassidy’s being asked about here, I believe, is the news yesterday that the AHCA’s waivers for the states could end up affecting employer-provided plans, letting businesses opt out of federal caps on out-of-pocket maximums and rules barring lifetime limits on coverage for certain kinds of benefits. What happens, CNN wonders, if a company opts out and suddenly your baby son needs a million dollars’ worth of cardiac treatment? Here’s Cassidy essentially telling you that’s a nonstarter in the Senate, at least for him.

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David Strom 6:31 PM on October 05, 2022