Jimmy Kimmel: TV host emerges as unlikely leader in fight to save Obamacare


Republicans are pushing again to tear up Obamas health plan but the man once regarded as a lightweight on late-night is fast becoming a powerful GOP foe

For a second night in a row, the late-night talkshow host Jimmy Kimmel dedicated his opening monologue to excoriating a US senator who represents one half of a renewed push to tear up the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Kimmel is rapidly emerging as the unlikely leader of the counter-crusade to save the ACA, widely known as Obamacare, from Republican efforts to repeal and replace the health insurance system.

After Kimmel accused Bill Cassidy, a Republican from Louisiana, of having lied to my face about his position on healthcare, Cassidy, a medical doctor who worked in a public hospital with low-income and uninsured patients, went public to say Kimmel did not understand the bill.

But Kimmel, joking that he did not want to turn their war of words into aKanye-and-Taylor-Swift-type situation, refused to back down.

Which part dont I understand? Kimmel countered, in a 10-minute rebuttal. The part where you cut $243bn dollars from federal healthcare assistance? Am I not understanding the part where states would let insurance companies price you out of coverage for having pre-existing conditions?

Could it be, Senator Cassidy, that the problem is that I do understand and you got caught with your G-O-Penis out? Is that possible?

Cassidy, and his co-author, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, are rallying Republican senators around a last-gasp effort to repeal the ACA and replace it with legislation that largely shifts money away from states that opted to expand Medicaid coverage to states where Republican governors refused to do so.

Republican leaders in the Senate have announced that they will push for a vote early next week, although full details and implications of the bill are not clear.

Unlike many of his fellow late-night hosts, including Stephen Colbert, Samantha Bee and Trevor Noah, who feast off the chaos and controversy in a Trump-era Washington, Kimmel had been considered less likely to dive into the political fray.

But as host of the Academy Awards in February, Kimmel trained a blistering opening monologue on Trump.

And in May, he revealed in a tearful speech that his son, Billy, had been born with a heart defect and nearly died. Kimmel said that thanks to the top-of-the-line healthcare, his surgery was successful.

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Jimmy Kimmel reveals newborn sons surgery in healthcare plea video

In that 13-minute May speech, Kimmel implored Republicans to back off their effort to repeal Barack Obamas healthcare law, which has helped nearly 20 million Americans gain health insurance.

We were brought up to believe that we live in the greatest country in the world, but until a few years ago, millions and millions of us had no access to health insurance at all, Kimmel said.

Before 2014, if you were born with congenital heart disease like my son was, there was a good chance youd never be able to get health insurance because you had a pre-existing condition. You were born with a pre-existing condition. And if your parents didnt have medical insurance, you might not live long enough to even get denied because of a pre-existing condition.

Cassidy heard Kimmels plea to Republicans who were deliberating over an earlier version of ACA repeal and established what he called Jimmy Kimmel test that no family should be denied medical care because they could not afford it.

Does it pass the Jimmy Kimmel test? Cassidy told reporters on Capitol Hill when pressed on the details of the Republican healthcare plan. On CNN, Cassidy referred specifically to Kimmels sons medical history: Will a child born with a congenital heart disease get everything she or he would need in the first year of life?

Cassidy then appeared on Kimmels show and agreed that he would apply the Jimmy Kimmel test. But Cassidy ended up voting in favor of a doomed effort that would have repealed parts of the healthcare law.

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Senator Bill Cassidy: the subject of Jimmy Kimmels ire. Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock

Two months after that legislation failed, falling one vote short in the Senate, Cassidy has helped revive Republicans seven-year campaign to dismantle the healthcare law in time for one last try before the vehicle to repeal it on a party-line vote expires at the end of the month.

As their effort started to gain momentum on Capitol Hill this week, Kimmel again stepped in with another lengthy monologue on Tuesday.

We want quality, affordable healthcare. Dozens of other countries figured it out. So instead of jamming this horrible bill down our throats, go pitch in and be a part of that. Im sure they could use a guy with your medical background, Kimmel said.

And if not, stop using my name, OK? Because I dont want my name on it. Theres a new Jimmy Kimmel test for you. Its called the lie-detector test. Youre welcome to stop by the studio and take it anytime.

Cassidy responded to Kimmel on Wednesday and said: Im sorry he does not understand Everybody fears change, Cassidy said. Even if its worse to better, they dont want change.

And on Capitol Hill, Graham, Cassidys co-sponsor, lost his patience when a reporter pointed out that states would be able to opt out of covering pre-existing conditions.

Where are you getting this garbage? Where are you getting this garbage? Graham told NBC News. Thats complete garbage.

Graham said Kimmel heard some liberal talking points about the bill and bought it hook, line and sinker.

In a sign of Kimmels impact on the debate, Donald Trump defended Cassidy and the bill on Twitter. The president called Cassidy a class act and said he wouldnt lie.

Senator (Doctor) Bill Cassidy is a class act who really cares about people and their health(care), he doesnt lie just wants to help people! Trump tweeted.

The president also said he would not sign Graham-Cassidy into law if it did not protect people with pre-existing conditions from being charged more by insurers.

But analysts and fact checkers have repeatedly disputed this assessment, largely siding with Kimmel. In the debate over who might lose insurance protections, the Associated Press fact checker reported, the TV guy is the hardest to refute.

As the healthcare debate ticks closer to the 30 September deadline, Kimmels impact is uncertain. In an August interview, Kimmel said he thought his advocacy had swayed some viewers but he doubted whether it changed any hearts or minds on Capitol Hill given how narrowly the bill failed in July.

I think it made a big impact on American citizens, Kimmel told the Hollywood Reporter. Im not sure, based on how our so-called leaders voted, whether it made a big impact on the Senate or House.

Kimmel on Wednesday implored viewers who were concerned about losing healthcare under the latest repeal attempt to call one of several Republican senators who have not publicly made up their minds on the legislation.

Karina Peterson, a spokeswoman for Alaska senator Lisa Murkowski, who could determine the fate of the bill, said she did not have any numbers to share on the number of calls her office had received. But she said: Its fair to say people are very engaged on the issue of healthcare.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/sep/21/jimmy-kimmel-tv-host-republicans-obamacare-health

Jimmy Kimmel reveals newborn son’s surgery in healthcare plea – video

In an emotional opening monologue, Jimmy Kimmel reveals details about his newborn son’s need for heart surgery and expresses his gratitude that funding to the National Institute of Health was not cut in the new budget. Kimmel says that such cuts would have severely affected children and that ‘if your baby is going to die and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make’