WASHINGTON ― Earlier this year, Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) insisted that any bill that repeals Obamacare must pass the “Jimmy Kimmel test,” a reference to the TV host whose baby son was born with a heart defect and required immediate surgery. Any child with a pre-existing condition, Cassidy maintained, ought to be able to receive the services he or she needs in an affordable way.
This week, however, the Louisiana Republican voted in favor of a bill that arguably does not pass that test.
Seven GOP senators joined all Democrats to sink that legislation, called the Obamacare Repeal Reconciliation Act, by a margin of 45-55. The so-called “repeal-and-delay” package, championed by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and vetoed by former President Barack Obama two years ago, would have repealed the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate and eliminated funding for its insurance subsidies and Medicaid expansion. It would not have gone into effect until 2020, however, to allow Congress more time to craft a replacement.
According to the CBO, the bill would have increased the number of Americans without health coverage by 32 million over the next 10 years, including a staggering 17 million people who would have become uninsured in its first year of implementation alone. Moreover, the legislation would have destabilized the insurance market and caused premiums to double over the next decade ― making it extremely difficult for low-income consumers to afford insurance.
Cassidy defended his vote on Wednesday, arguing that the delay in implementation of the bill would force Congress back to the table in order to craft a suitable replacement for Obamacare.
“Nothing happens around here without a deadline. I’ve been working on this for eight years and working on it intensely for last year, and it’s only when there’s a deadline that things start melding, right?”
HuffPost pointed out that a similar scheme failed to scare Congress into producing a solution on raising the debt limit in 2011, which resulted in automatic across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration.
“I accept that,” Cassidy replied. “But again, if you look at the knowledge of people, kind of coming to positions and saying, ‘OK, I’ll move off my position,’ it’s worked because of a deadline.”
Representatives for Kimmel did not immediately return a request for comment
Not even some of Cassidy’s conservative colleagues shared his faith that Congress could agree to do in two years what it failed to do over the last seven ― produce a replacement for Obamacare.
“Pilots like to know where they’re going to land when they take off, and we should, too,” Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who cast a surprise vote against the legislation, said Wednesday.
It wasn’t just Cassidy’s vote for the so-called “repeal-and-delay” bill that flew in the face of the Kimmel test, however. So, too, does his apparent support for a proposed “skinny” health care bill that Republican leaders are trying to pass later this week.
The narrowly tailored measure would eliminate the Affordable Care Act’s individual and employer mandates and a medical device tax. If it passes in the Senate, the argument goes, Republicans would have more time to craft a comprehensive bill during a conference committee with their counterparts in the House.
Cassidy affirmed Wednesday that he intended to support such a bill, which would lead to 16 million people losing coverage over 10 years and a 20 percent hike in premiums, according to a preliminary CBO assessment based on a summary of the bill’s likely features.
“I’m voting for anything that continues the process,” he said during an interview with CNN.