Video: Graham, Cassidy Respond to Jimmy Kimmel's Misleading Healthcare Monologue

Posted: Sep 21, 2017 10:35 AM

UPDATE - Late last night, ABC late night comedy host Jimmy Kimmel went off again, blasting Republicans and their Obamacare replacement efforts.  As I suggest below, he should have Lindsey Graham on his show to debate the merits of the bill and to address some of Kimmel's attacks against it.  Perhaps Graham can explain policy trade-offs to Kimmel, who seems rather shaky on the concept (the more "essential" health benefits are mandated for every plan in America, the more plans will cost for a lot of people who don't want or need deluxe/comprehensive coverage, pricing people out of the marketplace).  This general issue is deeply and understandably personal to Kimmel because of his son's condition.  But part of his problem is that he doesn't know anyone in his life for whom Obamacare has been harmful, which blinds him to a major part of the story.  He admitted as much in a March interview with Ted Cruz:

If Kimmel presumes to speak for Americans on healthcare, he should do more homework and actually take the time to learn and internalize the stories of people who've lived through Obamacare nightmares.  And if he is, in fact, a fan of single payer, he should have to meaningfully grapple with some of the questions I've mentioned below.  

***Original Post***

This all started when Kimmel made a famously emotional on-air appeal regarding "repeal and replace" legislation this past spring.  He seized on his newborn son's pre-existing condition to criticize GOP efforts, garnering a great deal of attention and adulation.  In response, Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy -- a medical doctor who's devoted much of his life to caring for underserved patients -- appeared on  Kimmel's show, pledging that any Republican healthcare law would pass what he dubbed the "Jimmy Kimmel test."  Now that Cassidy's legislation is the last Obamacare replacement effort standing, Kimmel again devoted a Tuesday monologue to blasting the bill, during which he called Cassidy a liar.  He urged viewers to call Congress, giving out the Congressional switchboard phone number on air and on social media:

It should go without saying that everyone ought to be happy and relieved that Kimmel's precious little boy is doing well -- and of course it's a shared goal that no American in need of healthcare would ever be denied treatment.  But all public policies surrounding health coverage and care involve costs and important trade-offs, a reality that Kimmel glosses over, at best.  The comedian's editorial statement was under-informed, unfair and misleading, argues The Federalist's David Harsanyi, in a piece provocatively entitled, "Why Does Jimmy Kimmel Want Americans to Suffer?"

“This guy, Bill Cassidy, just lied right to my face,” Kimmel said, before going on an extended political rant on Tuesday night. “By the way, before you post a nasty Facebook message saying I’m politicizing my son’s health problems, I want you to know: I am politicizing my son’s health problems,” he went on. Okay. “Coverage for all? No,” explained Kimmel, “In fact, it will kick about 30 million Americans off insurance.” Not a single person would be kicked off his or her insurance. The last time we went through this, the Congressional Budget Office found that 14 million of the 24 million Americans off health insurance due to an Obamacare repeal would choose not to buy it in 2018 in the absence of a penalty. Around six million or more of those 24 million are people the CBO just assumes would have left Obamacare markets even if the law was not repealed.

Now, if you don’t believe Americans should be afforded this choice, just say so. No one is being kicked off. Moreover, if Kimmel supports the individual mandate, Graham-Cassidy allows California to institute it — as I am sure it would. “Pre-existing conditions? No.” Kimmel says, “Individual states can let insurance companies charge more if you have a preexisting condition.” States would be allowed to apply for waivers to change what qualifies as an essential health benefit as long as they still preserve “adequate and affordable health insurance coverage” for people with preexisting conditions. You may prefer price-fixing to allowing states flexibility to mete out their own block grants and pricing, but Graham-Cassidy does not break “The Jimmy Kimmel Test.” If anything, it more fairly divvies up federal dollars to the states.

The "kicked off" formulation really is quite dishonest, based on data we've explored in-depth. By repeating that claim, Kimmel either fails or deceives his audience. Also, each Republican healthcare bill considered this year maintains Obamacare's "guaranteed issue" mandate, which requires insurers to cover people with pre-existing conditions. That's still true of Graham-Cassidy, even though states would have (limited) options to tweak what qualifies as an "essential" health benefit, which could result in some people with certain conditions being charged more.  Kimmel also asserts that middle class families' premiums would not decrease under the bill, which is a dubious charge.  In all likelihood, some Americans would experience more affordable options, while others would pay more.  Again, healthcare policy is complicated and entails difficult trade-offs -- an acknowledgement that Democrats failed to make while pitching Obamacare.  Anyone who was satisfied with their arrangements could keep them, they lied, adding that costs would drop for everyone.  These were flagrantly untrue statements, and millions of Americans have been betrayed by them.  Where was Kimmel's indignant monologue when people were being booted off their plans and separated from their doctors?  Or when average premiums on Obamacare's federal marketplace more than doubled over the last four years?

Despite his protestations to the contrary (the bipartisan 'fix' he mentions -- negotiations about which have reportedly derailed -- would simply prop up Obamacare's flawed structure at even greater expense to taxpayers), Kimmel is fiercely defending a status quo that's working well for his family, while hurting many others.  Is that compassionate?  Are some broken political promises that impact real people more acceptable to Jimmy Kimmel than others?  Does he have anything to say to the residents of 45 percent of US counties who will face one "choice" of insurer in the individual market next year, after being promised that "competition" would drive their options up and their costs down -- or is that okay by him?  Where's the outrage, Jimmy?  Harsanyi goes on:

So went a monologue that could have been written by any liberal activist. Which is to say it is zero-sum emotionalism. Anyone can play that game. Fact is that Kimmel is a fan of the status quo... there are two ways to go about national reform. One is to force the whole country to live under unilateral partisan rule. The other is to decentralize and let states try to figure it out. Kimmel may be perfectly content grandstanding against this idea while millions suffer. Others may feel differently.

Kimmel jokes that he's an expert on eating pizza, not on healthcare.  That's probably true, which is why we should be very wary of his observation that countries like England and Canada have "figured healthcare out."  This could easily be construed as an implicit endorsement of single-payer healthcare, under which more than 150 million Americans would be uprooted from their satisfactory employer-provided plans and forced into a VA-style, government-run regime -- and forced to foot the bill through astronomical tax increases.  A multimillionaire like Kimmel could probably afford to pay higher taxes (and might even want to, given his apparent political leanings), and he could certainly shell out the money to get the sort of special, augmented treatment that's always available to elites.  But if he's a single-payer supporter (as America's self-appointed conscience on healthcare, is he?), how does he feel about subjecting the masses to much longer wait times for care, government rationing, unaccountable bureaucratic abuse, inferior survival rates for a host of major diseases, and stifled medical innovation?  Would those outcomes pass the "Jimmy Kimmel test"?  

What about much higher tax rates and less take-home pay for working class families already struggling to make ends meet?  That may sound just grand to a privileged celebrity living in Los Angeles.  It may not sound as terrific to people like this, who've already been battered by the current law that Kimmel seems so invested in protecting. Here are Senators Graham and Cassidy responding to the comedian's accusations, with Graham getting a little feisty in the process:

They should go on his show and help set the record straight, rather than ceding large swaths of cultural territory  to what Harsanyi describes as Kimmel's "zero-sum emotionalism" and attacks on their character.  I'll leave you with this:

Kimmel can be hilarious and seems like a pretty decent guy; he has every right to get political and push an agenda on his show.  But a lot of other Americans are equally decent people who hold a different perspective on Obamacare, and they have a right to respond.  Preferably by wielding facts, while under no illusions that the new bill is some perfect panacea.  No plan is.

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