POLITICS

GOP Senate Candidate Explains Why The Uninsured Are Less 'Educated,' 'Sophisticated'

03/28/2014 11:50 am ET | Updated Mar 28, 2014

Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), who is running to unseat Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), sought Thursday to explain his controversial comments about how, in his opinion, the uninsured are "less educated" and "less sophisticated" and therefore will experience difficulties enrolling for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

The Times-Picayune reported that Cassidy, who is a physician, issued a statement explaining what he said about the uninsured.

"As a doctor, I can tell you that you need an honest diagnosis before you can provide the needed treatment," Cassidy said in the statement. "It is self-evident to anyone who has worked with the uninsured, as I have for decades, that the uninsured come from all segments of society. This includes the more and the less educated. That's exactly the point I made and make: if we seek to be truly compassionate, our policies must meet people where they are. Obamacare's one-size-fits-all model lacks this basic measure of compassion."

Cassidy's comments, which were first reported Wednesday by BuzzFeed, were made as the congressman spoke at the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association’s annual meeting last week.

At the meeting, the Senate candidate explained the rationale behind his alternative proposal for health care reform.

“[The plan] I think actually reflects the reality of who the uninsured are: relatively less sophisticated, less comfortable with forms, less educated," Cassidy said. "Those are the folks that -- not all -- there’s a guy who goes to my church who’s uninsured, who’s middle-class but couldn’t get it because he has Type I diabetes. So it’s not all, but it is the folks who I think are going to have the hardest time reaching.”

The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that 20 percent of Louisianans are uninsured.

Cassidy also argued at the meeting last week that President Barack Obama doesn't understand the needs of those seeking health insurance.

“We were fortunate growing up in the south," Cassidy said. "The president is a community organizer. You wonder if he ever worked with a poor person…Insurance people, they will tell you that they will go to a company and an employer will pay for everything, and there are some people who will not sign up. Turns out, those are my patients. They’re illiterate. I’m not saying that to be mean. I say that in compassion. They cannot read. The idea they’re going to go on the internet and work through a 16-page document to put in their data and sign up does not reflect an understanding of who is having the hardest time in our economy.”

Cassidy poses a tough general election challenge to Landrieu, who is considered one of the more vulnerable Democratic incumbents this election cycle.

UPDATE: 12:30 p.m. -- Louisiana Democrats linked Cassidy's comments to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's refusal to expand Medicaid in the state.

"Bill Cassidy arrogantly insulted hundreds of thousands of uninsured Louisianians by calling them 'illiterate,' 'less sophisticated' and 'less educated,' and he owes the people of Louisiana an apology," Campaign For Louisiana Communications Director Andrew Zucker said in a statement Thursday. "Nearly 250,000 Louisianians don't even have the opportunity to purchase health insurance. It's not because they're 'illiterate' as Bill Cassidy has insinuated, it's because he and Bobby Jindal are rejecting Medicaid expansion at virtually no cost to taxpayers. Bill Cassidy's insulting caricature of Louisianians who can't access health insurance, in part because of his opposition to expanding Medicaid, proves that he's out of touch with Louisiana values and can't be trusted to fight for Louisiana in the Senate."

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