Get Bill Cassidy going on the technicalities of medical care in this country, and he’ll talk your ear off. It’s ironic that a comedian named Jimmy Kimmel has been heard by far more people, in Louisiana and the nation, about health care — when it’s Cassidy who is the physician in this conversation.
And not only did the senator lie, in Kimmel’s words on national television, about guarantees of health care coverage in his new bill, but many other commentators have questioned the integrity of his motives, seeing the last-ditch “repeal and replace” of “Obamacare” as intended to hurt people.
We urge everybody to dial back the rhetoric, even if we have grave doubts about whether Cassidy’s bill should pass this week.
The general idea of the “Jimmy Kimmel test” that Cassidy embraced, which the comedian now says he’s abandoned, is not a bad one: People should not suffer, or die, because the richest country in the world can’t figure out a cost-effective way to provide health care.
Cassidy seeks to curb costs by giving states near-total control of a new federal block grant for Medicaid, with the potential for states to customize health care to their peoples’ needs. In principle, is this such a bad idea? Too many critics of Cassidycare argue that this is on its face “cutting” health coverage for millions of people.
We believe that is not Cassidy’s intention, but we also believe that he should look at what happened to an earlier federal block grant, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. As the Louisiana Budget Project documented, Louisiana fleeced this program for other purposes, diverting vast amounts of money to state programs to finance tax cuts under former Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Cassidy should be well-aware of these risks, as he was formerly a state senator when some of those diversions occurred. We don’t want to say, or believe, that state officers will be any less concerned about the health care of their people than the feds are, but states that failed to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act did a signal disservice.
Responsible governors of both parties, including John Bel Edwards of Louisiana, oppose the Cassidycare bill in part because it seems to take its savings from the Medicaid expansion states. Further, no governor wants to be in the position of throwing folks off their health insurance because medical inflation goes up faster than Cassidycare provides money for the coverage.
What is needed? A genuinely bipartisan and orderly debate, as GOP elder statesman John McCain earlier urged, to make sense of the numbers.
We see Cassidy as not lacking heart, but he and other Republicans ruthlessly criticized Democrats for pushing Obamacare through on a party-line vote. Now, because of an artificial deadline created by Senate budget rules, the GOP wants to change radically the provisions for a giant portion of the American economy — on a party-line vote.
Don’t rush this. Do a McCain process on the Cassidy bill. If a good bill is agreed to, it will get more than the 60 Senate votes required under the regular-order that McCain suggested.