By Robert Mann
I was a sucker. Like the parents of sick children I’ve seen on TV in recent weeks, I had faith in U.S. Sen. Billy Cassidy’s goodwill when he told late-night host Jimmy Kimmel he would protect sick children and their families.
“If your baby is going to die and it doesn’t have to,” an emotional Kimmel told his audience in May after his son underwent heart surgery, “it shouldn’t matter how much money you make.”
Asked about Kimmel’s statement, Cassidy told CNN he wouldn’t support a health care bill in the Senate unless it met “the Jimmy Kimmel test.” That, Cassidy explained, 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?” Later, appearing by satellite on Kimmel’s show, Cassidy expanded the test to include “not only on the first year [of life] but every year thereafter.”
A physician who worked in the state’s charity hospital system, Cassidy led us to believe he would prioritize the interests and needs of sick children. He wanted us to buy the idea that he cared for these families. He assured us he would not support a bill that hurt them.
I swallowed it and wrote, “Perhaps more than any member of the Senate Republican caucus, Cassidy understands the struggles of working-poor families. I suspect he does not want it on his record or his conscience that he made life harder — or more deadly — for these families.”
What a fool I was.
On Tuesday (July 25), Cassidy voted with the Republican majority to begin debate on repealing the Affordable Care Act, which would make it difficult (if not impossible) for millions of families with sick and dying children to get the critical care they need.
Cassidy also supported an amendment — offered by Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rob Portman, R-Ohio — that makes a mockery of his Kimmel test pledge. The Cruz amendment (it failed with only 43 votes) would roll back Medicaid expansion and encourage insurance companies to hawk bare-bones policies that provide little or no meaningful coverage.
Just as troubling, the Senate took up Cruz’s language without an analysis from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), meaning Cassidy backed a bill without bothering to investigate the effects on families he says he would protect.
On Wednesday, Cassidy was one of 45 votes for legislation that would have repealed most of Obamacare without a replacement, an appalling betrayal of the parents he had assured on Kimmel’s show. The CBO estimates the amendment would cause 32 million people to drop or lose their health insurance.
Early Friday morning, Cassidy betrayed these families again when he supported the so-called “skinny repeal” legislation, which the CBO said would cost 16 million their health coverage. That measure failed 49-51.
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