The continuing radicalization of Jimmy Kimmel proceeded apace on Tuesday night, as the former Man Show host used his Jimmy Kimmel Live! monologue to call Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy a liar. Kimmel’s realization that Republicans might not be entirely sincere when they say they want to improve American health care is the conclusion of a story arc that began in April with the birth of Kimmel’s son William. William was born with a congenital heart defect, and after a close encounter with the exorbitant costs of his treatment, Kimmel gave a moving speech about the experience, boiling the health care debate down to a simple moral statement:
If your baby is going to die, and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make. … No parent should ever have to decide if they can afford to save their child’s life. It just shouldn’t happen. Not here.
None of the Republican health care proposals have done anything to alleviate this problem, because they were never designed to. But Kimmel, at least that first night, seemed to be working from the assumption that Republicans were operating in good faith, blaming “partisan squabbles” instead of an organized campaign on the part of the Republican party to keep health care a for-profit business that goes back decades. Slate’s Isaac Chotiner called Kimmel’s approach misguided at the time, but today it’s looking more like he was playing a long game.
Kimmel’s paean to bipartisanship—and the way his monologue went viral—made Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy feel comfortable enough that he started throwing his name around, saying he would only support legislation that passed the “Jimmy Kimmel test.” Seemingly confident that Kimmel was an ally, Cassidy then agreed to go on Jimmy Kimmel Live! to talk about it. Kimmel treated him to a hostile, skeptical interview, ending by telling Cassidy he hoped the senator would keep his word about improving the health care system.
But Senator Cassidy doesn’t seem to have had any intention of improving anything, judging from the nightmarish Graham-Cassidy bill. So Tuesday night, Kimmel dropped the hammer, telling his audience that Senator Cassidy “just lied right to my face,” running down a meticulously constructed list of specific ways Cassidy is breaking his promises, plastering the phone number for the Capitol switchboard on-screen (202-224-3121) and encouraging his audience to call their representatives. Yes: in 2017, Jimmy Kimmel is doing monologues about health care policy, wrapped around an accusation that a Republican senator is a liar, and urging his audience to take political action. He’s just as surprised about that as you are:
I never imagined I would get involved in something like this, this is not my area of expertise. My area of expertise is eating pizza, and that’s really about it. But we can’t let them do this to our children, our senior citizens, and our veterans, or to any of us.
Area of expertise or no, Kimmel’s concise explanation of the way Republicans are leveraging boredom to accomplish evil things is perfect:
Health care is complicated. It’s boring. I don’t want to talk about it. The details are confusing. And that’s what these guys are relying on. They’re counting on you to be so overwhelmed with all the information, you just trust them to take care of you. But they’re not taking care of you, they’re taking care of the people who give them money, like insurance companies. And we’re all just looking at our Instagram accounts and liking things while they’re voting on whether people can afford to keep their children alive or not. Most of the congresspeople who vote on this bill probably won’t even read it. And they want us to do the same thing. They want us to treat it like an iTunes service agreement. And this guy, Bill Cassidy, just lied right to my face.
It would be nice to live in a world where comedians could get back to making fun of Matt Damon, but if they have to spend their time pleading for our government not to take health care away from its own citizens—and for now, at least, it seems they do—it’s good to know Jimmy Kimmel is willing to call a lie a lie. Here are Kimmel’s complete comments:
I know you guys are gonna find this hard to believe, but a few months ago, after my son had open-heart surgery, which was something I spoke about on the air, a politician, a senator named Bill Cassidy from Louisiana, was on my show, and he wasn’t very honest. It seemed like he was being honest. He got a lot of credit and attention for coming off like a rare, reasonable voice in the Republican Party when it came to health care, for coming up with something he called—and I didn’t name it this, he named it this—the “Jimmy Kimmel test.” Which was, in a nutshell, no family should be denied medical care, emergency or otherwise, because they can’t afford it. He agreed to that. He said he would only support a health care bill that made sure a child like mine would get the health coverage he needs, no matter how much money his parents make. And that did not have annual or lifetime caps. These insurance companies, they want caps to limit how much they can pay out. So, for instance, if your son has to have three open-heart surgeries, it can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars apiece, if he hits his lifetime cap of, let’s say, a million dollars, the rest of his life, he’s on his own. Now, our current plan protects Americans from these caps and prevents insurance providers from jacking up the rates for people who have preexisting conditions of all types. And Senator Cassidy said his plan would do that too. He said all of this on television, many times.
CLIP: Senator Cassidy: As you present that, I ask, “Does it pass the Jimmy Kimmel test? Would a child born with a congenital health disease be able to get everything she or he would need in that first year of life. I want it to pass the Jimmy Kimmel test.
Jimmy Kimmel: So last week, Bill Cassidy and Senator Lindsey Graham proposed a new bill, the Graham-Cassidy Bill, and this new bill actually does pass the Jimmy Kimmel test, but a different Jimmy Kimmel test. With this one, your child with a preexisting condition will get the care he needs if—and only if—his father is Jimmy Kimmel. Otherwise, you might be screwed. Now, I don’t know what happened to Bill Cassidy, but when he was on this publicity tour, he listed his demands for a health care bill very clearly. These were his words. He said he wants:
- Coverage for all
- No discrimination based on pre-existing conditions
- Lower premiums for middle-class families
- No lifetime caps
And guess what? The new bill does none of those things. Coverage for all? No. In fact, it’ll take about 30 million Americans off insurance. Pre-existing conditions? No. If the bill passes, individual states can let insurance companies charge you more if you have a pre-existing condition. You’ll find that little loophole later in the document, after it says they can’t. They can, and they will. But will it lower premiums? Well, in fact, for lots of people, the bill will result in higher premiums. And as far as no lifetime caps go, the states can decide on that too, which means there will be lifetime caps in many states.
So not only did Bill Cassidy fail the Jimmy Kimmel test, he failed the Bill Cassidy test. He failed his own test. And you don’t see that happen very much. This bill that he came up with is actually worse than the one that—thank God—Republicans like Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski and John McCain torpedoed over the summer. And I hope they have the courage and good sense to do that with this one.
Because these other guys, who claim they want Americans to have better health care, even though eight years ago they didn’t want anyone to have health care at all, they’re trying to sneak this scam of a bill they cooked up in without an analysis from the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office. They don’t even want you to see it. They’re having one hearing—I read the hearings are being held in the Homeland Security Committee, which has nothing to do with health care, and the chairman agreed to allow two witnesses—Bill Cassidy and Lindsey Graham—to speak.
So listen. Health care is complicated. It’s boring. I don’t want to talk about it. The details are confusing. And that’s what these guys are relying on. They’re counting on you to be so overwhelmed with all the information, you just trust them to take care of you. But they’re not taking care of you, they’re taking care of the people who give them money, like insurance companies. And we’re all just looking at our Instagram accounts and liking things while they’re voting on whether people can afford to keep their children alive or not. Most of the congresspeople who vote on this bill probably won’t even read it. And they want us to do the same thing. They want us to treat it like an iTunes service agreement. And this guy, Bill Cassidy, just lied right to my face.
CLIP: Jimmy Kimmel: Do you believe that every American, regardless of income, should be able to get regular checkups, maternity care, etcetera, all of those things that people who have health care get and need?
Bill Cassidy: Yep.
Jimmy Kimmel: So “Yep,” is Washington for “Nope,” I guess. And I never imagined I would get involved in something like this, this is not my area of expertise. My area of expertise is eating pizza, and that’s really about it. But we can’t let them do this to our children, our senior citizens, and our veterans, or to any of us.
And by the way, before you post a nasty Facebook message saying I’m politicizing my son’s health problems, I want you to know, I am politicizing my son’s health problems, because I have to. My family has health insurance. We don’t have to worry about this. But other people do, so you can shove your disgusting comments where your doctor won’t be giving you a prostate exam once they take your health care benefits away.
It’s truly, it’s unbelievable. Somehow Japan and England and Canada and Germany and France, they all figured health care out. And don’t say they have terrible health care, because it’s just not true. This is a bad bill. But don’t take my word for it. Here are just some of the organizations that oppose this Graham-Cassidy bill.
- The American Cancer Society
- The American Diabetes Association
- The American Heart Association
- The American Lung Association
- The Arthritis Foundation
- The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
- The ALS Association
- The March of Dimes
- The National Multiple Sclerosis Society
- Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles
Basically, any group you’ve ever given money to thinks this is a bad idea. Do you trust them? Or do you trust him? (Kimmel gestures at a photo of Senator Cassidy) Ok?
So if this bill isn’t good enough for you, call your congressperson. That’s the number, it will go to your congressperson, whoever he or she is: 202-224-3121. You have to do this, you can’t just click like on this video. Tell them this bill doesn’t pass your test.
And Senator Cassidy, you were on my show, you seem like you’re a decent guy. But here’s the thing: Nobody outside of your buddies in Congress wants this bill. Only 12% of Americans supported the last one, and this one is worse. Right now, there’s a bipartisan group of senators working to improve the health care system we have. We want quality, affordable health care. Dozens of other countries figured it out. So instead of jamming this horrible bill down our throats, go pitch in and be a part of that, I’m sure they could use a guy with your medical background.
And if not, stop using my name, okay? Because I don’t want my name on it. There’s a new Jimmy Kimmel test for you: it’s called a lie detector test. You’re welcome to stop by the studio and take it any time.