Comedian Jimmy Kimmel thwacked the latest Republican health care proposal Tuesday night after one of the senators sponsoring the bill invoked Kimmel's name.
Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., touted Tuesday on Capitol Hill that his plan passes the "Jimmy Kimmel test."
That is a phrase the lawmaker coined back in May because the late night host has been outspoken about his young son's heart condition and the amount of money it would cost someone who didn't have health insurance before the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, became law to obtain the kind of care his son has needed.
"I ask, 'Does it pass the "Jimmy Kimmel test"?' " Cassidy, a medical doctor, said in May of Republican health care proposals. "Will a child born with congenital heart disease be able to get everything she or he would need in the first year of life? I want it to pass the 'Jimmy Kimmel test.' "
Kimmel pressed Cassidy to follow through on his word in a tweet in June and outlined his definition of the "Kimmel test," which he reiterated Tuesday night.
But Kimmel said the latest bill doesn't pass the test. He used his late night platform to knock down Cassidy's health care plan, which the GOP is trying to pass by the end of the month, point by point. He said Cassidy, whom Kimmel quizzed on his show before the plan came out, "lied right to my face."
"Health care is complicated; it's boring; I don't want to talk about it," Kimmel said. "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, 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 like insurance companies, and we're all just looking at our Instagram accounts liking things, while they're voting on whether people can afford to keep their children alive or not. Most of the congresspeople who vote on this bill probably won't even read it. And they want us to do the same thing. They want us to treat it like an iTunes service agreement. And this guy, Bill Cassidy, just lied right to my face."
In his monologue, Kimmel urged that no matter how much money a family makes, there should be no annual or lifetime caps. Because of the high cost of procedures like open-heart surgery, lifetime or annual caps on what insurers pay out mean families foot the rest of the bill.
Since states decide the rules, according to Cassidy's plan, Kimmel argues that inevitably, there will be states where caps will be instituted and families will be hurt.
Kimmel laid out four points that Cassidy had said he wanted in a health care bill:
1. Coverage for all
2. No discrimination based on pre-existing conditions
3. Lower premiums for middle-class families
4. No lifetime caps
"I'm sorry he does not understand," Cassidy said Wednesday morning on CNN about Kimmel, adding that under the new bill, "more people will have coverage."
That's almost certainly not true, given the Medicaid expansion rollback that would take place under the bill. Medicaid expansion accounted for the largest drop in the uninsured under the ACA.
What's more, Republicans are trying to push the bill through before the Congressional Budget Office can weigh in with an analysis of how much it would cost and how many people could lose insurance. Prior versions of Republican health bills care all showed millions more would no longer be insured compared with under the ACA.
"Not only did he fail the 'Jimmy Kimmel test,' " Kimmel said, "it failed the 'Bill Cassidy test.' "
As Kimmel drove home his points, the audience groaned. Those groans revealed something else — the audience, not unexpectedly, was not familiar with the details of the Cassidy plan, which is co-sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
And that raises another important point — in this era in which trust in politicians, Congress, Washington and democratic institutions, including the news media, is on the decline, people are looking to others they trust to impart and make sense of information.
That was true of Jon Stewart when he hosted The Daily Show, and polls began to reveal that his show was a principal "news" source for many young people.
So it's not surprising that a popular — formerly fairly apolitical — late night host with a compelling personal storyline to draw on could have a broader effect than other traditional influencers.
"I never imagined I would get involved in something like this," Kimmel said. "This is not my area of expertise. My area of expertise is eating pizza, and that's really about it. But we can't let them do this to our children and our senior citizens and our veterans or to any of us."
For those who say Kimmel has crossed over and become too political. He had a message for them, too: "Before you post the 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, because I have to. But my family has health insurance. We don't have to worry about this, but other people do. So you can shove your disgusting comments where your doctor won't be giving you a prostate exam once they take your health care benefits away."