WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Television talk show host Jimmy Kimmel called out a Republican U.S. senator pushing the party’s latest healthcare overhaul plan, saying the lawmaker had “lied right to my face” about efforts to scrap Obamacare by backing a measure that would strip coverage from many Americans.
Kimmel, who became part of the debate on U.S. healthcare legislation in May after emotionally discussing his newborn son’s emergency heart surgery, took aim at Senator Bill Cassidy on his show on Tuesday night. Along with fellow Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, Cassidy authored a bill that now has White House support to dismantle the 2010 Affordable Care Act passed under former Democratic President Barack Obama.
Kimmel has called for healthcare that will ensure treatment for children who do not come from wealthy families, like his. Cassidy appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” in May and said he supported access to preventative care regardless of income.
Cassidy had said any healthcare bill must pass what he called “the Jimmy Kimmel test” of providing affordable care for such children and include preventative care for every American.
“This guy Bill Cassidy just lied right to my face,” Kimmel said on Tuesday.
“This new bill actually does pass the Jimmy Kimmel test but a different Jimmy Kimmel test. With this one, your child with a pre-existing condition will get the care he needs – if, and only if, his father is Jimmy Kimmel. Otherwise, you might be screwed.”
Cassidy responded to Kimmel’s comments with a statement defending his bill as “must-pass” legislation to help cover people and noting Republicans faced a Sept. 30 deadline.
The Graham-Cassidy plan would allow states to opt out of some consumer protections and waive regulations requiring insurers to include certain benefits, as well as end the expansion of the Medicaid insurance program for the poor and disabled.
It remains unclear whether Republicans have enough support to pass the bill, which also would replace Obamacare with a system giving states block grants to fund their own healthcare programs.
Democrats have been united in opposing Republican efforts to make good on their years-long pledge to dismantle current law, a promise that also was central to U.S. Republican President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
A bipartisan group of governors, major health industry groups and consumer advocates also opposed the latest bill.
Kimmel and others urged Congress to instead stabilize current insurance markets with a package spearheaded by the Senate health committee’s Republican chairman and ranking Democrat.
“Right now, there’s a bipartisan group of senators working to improve the healthcare system we have,” Kimmel said on his show. “Go pitch in and be a part of that … And if not? Stop using my name.”
(Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Bill Trott)