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Jimmy Kimmel: new Obamacare repeal bill flunks the Jimmy Kimmel Test

“This guy, Bill Cassidy, just lied right to my face.”

Dylan Scott covers health care for Vox. He has reported on health policy for more than 10 years, writing for Governing magazine, Talking Points Memo and STAT before joining Vox in 2017.

Jimmy Kimmel became an unlikely figure in the Republican health care debate a few months ago when he reached an accord of sorts with Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), setting standards that any bill to repeal and replace Obamacare should meet.

On Tuesday, Kimmel slammed Cassidy, the author of the GOP’s last-ditch plan to overhaul US health care, for failing to meet those standards in his own legislation.

“This guy, Bill Cassidy, just lied right to my face,” Kimmel said in his opening monologue, which was posted online shortly before his show aired.

Back in May, Kimmel interviewed Cassidy about the GOP’s health care plans after the late-night host had been outspoken about his newborn son’s open-heart surgery. He and Cassidy discussed what became called the “Jimmy Kimmel test.” Cassidy has used that term repeatedly throughout the past few months of the health care debate.

Kimmel defined it like this: “No family should be denied medical care, emergency or otherwise, because they can't afford it.”

The host ticked through related requirements that he said Cassidy had set for his own health care plan:

  • Provide health coverage for everyone
  • Prevent discrimination against people with preexisting conditions
  • Lower premiums for middle-class Americans
  • Prohibit lifetime caps on insurance benefits

“The new bill does none of those things,” Kimmel said on Tuesday night. “Not only did Bill Cassidy fail the Jimmy Kimmel test, he failed the Bill Cassidy test.”

“He wasn’t very honest,” the host said to open his monologue. “It seemed like he was being honest. He got a lot of credit and attention for coming off like a rare reasonable voice in the Republican Party when it came to health care.”

The bill produced by Cassidy and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), which Republican leaders are trying to build support for and put on the Senate floor next week, is widely expected to result in fewer people having health coverage. Insurers would also be permitted, if individual states choose to allow it, to charge people higher premiums based on their medical history, as Vox’s Sarah Kliff reported.

The net effect on premiums is not expected to be known before the Senate would vote, because the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said it would not have enough time to fully analyze the bill. But some people could see higher premiums, if prices based on health status are once again allowed.

Finally, by allowing states to waive Obamacare’s rules for which essential health benefits insurance plans must cover, annual or lifetime limits could be reintroduced for services that states decide are not mandatory

“With this [bill], your child with a preexisting condition will get the care he needs, if and only if his father is Jimmy Kimmel,” Kimmel said Tuesday. “Otherwise you might be screwed.”

Asked for a response to Kimmel’s comments, Cassidy focused on the looming September 30 deadline for Senate Republicans to pass a health care bill.

"We have a September 30 deadline on our promise. Let’s finish the job,” he said in a statement provided by his office. “We must because there is a mother and father whose child will have insurance because of Graham Cassidy Heller Johnson. There is someone whose pre-existing condition will be addressed because of GCHJ.”

“I dedicated my medical career to care for such as these,” Cassidy said. “This is why GCHJ must pass."