TV star takes aim at US healthcare bill

  • 21/09/2017
Jimmy Kimmel is a popular late night show.
Jimmy Kimmel is a popular late night show. Photo credit: Getty

The latest Republican drive to replace Obamacare has been detoured by popular comedian Jimmy Kimmel's biting criticism of the proposal and accusation that one of its chief sponsors "lied right to my face" about it.

Meanwhile US President Donald Trump embraced the bill.

Mr Kimmel, who in May became an unexpected player in the US healthcare debate after his newborn son needed emergency surgery for a congenital heart condition, took aim at Senator Bill Cassidy, a medical doctor who had invoked the late-night TV host's name in touting the standards any Obamacare replacement would need to possess.

Mr Cassidy defended the bill, which would divvy up healthcare money as block grants to states, let them opt out of certain Obamacare consumer protections and waive requirements that insurers cover certain benefits. It also would end an expansion of the Medicaid program for the poor and disabled.

Republicans are using the bill Mr Cassidy is sponsoring with fellow Senator Lindsey Graham to make one last push this year to pass legislation to dismantle the 2010 Obamacare law, a goal of theirs for seven years.

Mr Cassidy since May has said any healthcare bill must pass what he called the "Jimmy Kimmel test" after the comedian emotionally discussed his baby son's situation on his show and pleaded that no family be denied medical care because they cannot afford it.

Mr Cassidy appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live! in May and said he backed access to preventative care regardless of income.

"This guy, Bill Cassidy, just lied right to my face," Mr Kimmel said on his show, Jimmy Kimmel Live, on Tuesday. "He said he would only support a healthcare bill that made sure a child like mine would get the health coverage he needs no matter how much money his parents make.

"Stop using my name, OK? Because I don't want my name on it. There's a new 'Jimmy Kimmel test' for you. It's called the lie detector test. You're welcome to stop by the studio and take it any time," he said to cheers from his audience.

While Mr Cassidy gave a measured response to Mr Kimmel's remarks, Mr Graham blasted the comedian.

"I bet you he never called Senator Cassidy and said would you please set this straight?" Mr Graham said on Fox News Channel's Fox & Friends show. "I bet he looked at some liberal talking point, bought it hook, line and sinker, and went after Bill Cassidy without talking to him. And I think that's unfair."

Donald Trump, on Twitter, called the new measure "great", adding: "I hope Republican Senators will vote for Graham-Cassidy and fulfil their promise to Repeal & Replace ObamaCare. Money direct to States!"

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Committee has not yet assessed the effects of the new bill. The CBO had found that prior Republican legislation that failed in July would have deprived an estimated 22 million Americans of health insurance.