By Sy Mukherjee
September 19, 2017

In May, after late night show host Jimmy Kimmel revealed heartwrenching details of his newborn son’s rare health condition, Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) passionately argued that any Obamacare repeal bill pursued by the Republican party should pass the “Jimmy Kimmel test” for Americans suffering from pre-existing medical conditions. But the bill Cassidy went on to co-author with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), known now as the Graham-Cassidy health care bill, would almost certainly fall short of that goal, according to initial analyses by major medical groups.

“[The legislation] does not take steps toward coverage and access for all Americans, and while insurers are still required to offer coverage to patients with pre-existing conditions, allowing states to get waivers to vary premiums based on health status would allow insurers to charge unaffordable premiums based on those pre-existing conditions,” wrote American Medical Association (AMA) president Dr. James Madara in a letter urging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to shelve the Graham-Cassidy bill on Tuesday.

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and the seniors’ group AARP echoed similar concerns and also noted that widespread coverage losses would be a likely consequence of the bill since it would institute a cap on federal Medicaid funding, which would in turn force states to tighten eligibility requirements, cut benefits, or both. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) will not be releasing its own analysis until next week, and even that will only be a preliminary assessment.

As for Kimmel, he is aware of the Graham-Cassidy bill. He indicated in a tweet picturing him with his baby son that he’ll use his late night platform to make the case against the lawmakers on Tuesday night. Kimmel also retweeted a missive from Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer arguing the latest repeal legislation doesn’t pass the comedian’s eponymous test.

Kimmel has been vocal about health care since he delivered his heart rending opening monologue in May about his newborn son, Billy, who came into the world with rare condition that required open heart surgery. It’s no surprise Kimmel praised the medical professionals who saved Billy’s life during that speech; but he went a step further, noting that not everyone is fortunate enough to afford the sort of medical treatment his family can, and that Americans shouldn’t be forced to choose between going bankrupt or seeing a loved one die because of a health care system stacked against the sick and the poor.

Kimmel has since actively railed against Obamacare repeal efforts, arguing that various proposals being debated by the law’s opponents would gut protections for people like Billy born with pre-existing conditions, either by rolling back Obamacare’s mandated insurance benefits for certain health conditions or allowing states to set up rules that would let insurers charge sick people more for their coverage. Prior to Obamacare’s passage, many insurers were free to deny people with pre-existing conditions (including some as common as diabetes, heart disease, epilepsy, obesity, or even arthritis) access to any kind of insurance and could hike rates once a customer got sick.

By July, it appeared the health law’s central consumer protections were (somewhat) safe after three GOP Senators defied Republican party leadership to kill a middle-of-the-night attempt to dismantle Obamacare. But not only is the Graham-Cassidy health plan putting the repeal train back on track, it’s gaining steam in the Senate.

Republican leadership reportedly needs the support of just one more GOP lawmaker to reach the 50-vote threshold required for the Graham-Cassidy bill to pass. And while the bill’s supporters argue that the legislation is a sensible fix that gives states much-needed flexibility on health care programs, the AMA, AAMC, and AARP say it would benefit the young, the healthy, and the rich at the expense of the old, the sick, and the poor by taking hacksaw to the Medicaid program that covers low-income Americans and allowing states to opt out of benefits requirements and other regulations under Obamacare, formally known as the Affordable Care Act.

At least two GOP Senators, Kentucky’s Rand Paul and Maine’s Susan Collins, are expected to vote against the Graham-Cassidy bill to repeal Obamacare if it comes to the floor. Arizona’s John McCain and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski would likely be the deciding votes—a “nay” vote from either one would kill the Republican health care effort.

Jimmy Kimmel Live! will air Tuesday night at 11:35 pm EST.

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