Jimmy Kimmel has emerged as the unlikely advocate against the Republicans' latest Obamacare repeal effort. Since the Graham-Cassidy bill started looking like it had a real fighting chance, the talk show host has turned his Jimmy Kimmel Live! show into a kind of PSA about the dangers of Graham-Cassidy and the outright lies being used to sell it. Republicans did not take kindly to his opining, and have argued Kimmel is unqualified to speak on a subject as complex as health care reform. On his show on Thursday night, Kimmel again brought up Graham-Cassidy, slamming Republicans for ignoring health care experts such as the American Medical Association that have come out in opposition to the bill.
In May, Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy appeared on Kimmel's show and promised he wouldn't support any legislation that didn't pass what he coined as the "Jimmy Kimmel test." For instance, it would have to guarantee insurance for people with pre-existing conditions and no lifetime caps — which Graham-Cassidy does not.
On Thursday's program, Kimmel blasted Cassidy saying, "I do give him the benefit of the doubt. I doubt all the benefits he claims are part of the new health care bill." Kimmel also had a response to President Trump defending Cassidy as someone who "just wants to help people." Kimmel tweeted back, "That's great news Mr. President! Does that mean he'll vote against the horrible bill he wrote?"
Kimmel also hit back at critics that told him to leave health care to the experts. “A lot of people have been saying that I’m not qualified to talk about this,” Kimmel said on Thursday. “And that’s true. I’m not qualified to talk about this. But I think those people forget, Bill Cassidy named this test after me. Am I supposed to just be quiet about that?”
Kimmel didn't stop there. One of the key changes Graham-Cassidy proposes is in how health care is funded. States would start receiving block grants to spend at the direction of individual governors and state legislatures, rather than on a population-based need. Vice President Mike Pence appeared on Fox & Friends in support of this provision, arguing that Americans could trust their local state government more than "a congressman and a president in a far-off nation's capital." Besides implying the president is untrustworthy (not to mention the existence of congresswomen, ahem), Kimmel said he'd trust neither one. "If Florida could make their own decisions, it would be legal to bring an alligator into a strip club," Kimmel joked.
Perhaps the biggest burn of Thursday night's show came in Kimmel's response to Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana. Speaking on Fox News, the senator questioned Kimmel's credibility concerning health care, saying, "I don't think anyone would confuse him with a well-respected health care expert." Kimmel shot back, "I’m not pretending to be an expert. I’m asking why people like you aren’t listening to actual experts, like the American Medical Association.”
Kimmel first weighed in on health care back in May, when he spoke openly and emotionally about the emergency open heart surgery his newborn son needed in order to survive. Arguing then against Republicans' move toward repealing Obamacare, Kimmel called on politicians to consider how parents without financial resources like his own could navigate such a heart-wrenching reality. His monologue went viral, and the public response likely helped to stave off earlier Republican efforts to do away with the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare).
This time, Republicans are pushing hard to pass a final attempt at repealing the ACA before Sep. 30. The bill has generated an unexpected amount of support, bringing the likelihood of its passage within margin of two to three votes.
Until that vote total is known, one expects to hear more from Kimmel on his opposition to Graham-Cassidy.