By Robert Mann
I don’t know if congressional Republicans are wise enough to take his advice on health care, but if they wish to remain in power, they might listen to Louisiana’s senior senator, Bill Cassidy.
The low-key Cassidy is not only a physician who practiced for years at Baton Rouge’s now-defunct charity hospital, Earl K. Long Medical Center; he also understands the travails of the financially strapped patients he once treated. And unlike most GOP House members, Cassidy seems to believe fixing the health care system is more important than cutting Medicaid by $880 billion to finance a tax cut for millionaires.
Cassidy is not new to the issue. Instead of destroying Obamacare and replacing it with something as immoral as the House-passed American Health Care Act (AHCA), Cassidy and Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins say they want to address Obamacare’s worst flaws.
Their bill, the Patient Freedom Act of 2017, would repeal the personal and employer coverage mandates while keeping Obamacare’s most popular features, especially the prohibition on denying coverage for pre-existing conditions. The bill also would give states the flexibility to maintain portions of Obamacare, including the mandates, while fashioning their own programs. “If states like California or New York think Obamacare works for them, then God bless them,” Cassidy told the Senate when he introduced the bill in January.
Because of his legislation, Cassidy was already a player in health care reform. Now, thanks to ABC late-night host Jimmy Kimmel, Cassidy could play a larger role in this debate — and in a way that could be politically advantageous to him.
After Kimmel disclosed that his newborn son had open-heart surgery for a congenital heart defect, the host pleaded with Congress preserve coverage for pre-existing conditions. “If your baby is going to die and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make,” an emotional Kimmel told viewers last month.
In a CNN interview a few days later, Cassidy said any bill he would support must pass “the Jimmy Kimmel test.” Cassidy explained that meant, “Would a child born with a congenital heart defect be able to get everything she or he would need in the first year of life?”
That pleased Kimmel, who invited Cassidy on his show last Monday night, whereupon Cassidy expanded the test to include “not only on the first year [of the child’s life] but every year thereafter.”
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