You will recall Bill Cassidy spending some time congratulating himself for being the Republican Moral Conscience on healthcare:
Sen. Bill Cassidy on Friday set a new standard for measuring health care, coining what he called “the Jimmy Kimmel test.”
The Louisiana Republican cited Kimmel’s passionate monologue on health care when responding to a question from CNN’s John Berman on whether he could “support a bill that allows insurance companies to cap their payouts to customers.”
“I ask does it pass the Jimmy Kimmel test,” said Cassidy, who is also a physician. “Would the child born with a congenital heart disease be able to get everything she or he would need in that first year of life … even if they go over a certain amount?”
Cassidy said, “So simple answer: I want to make sure folks get the care they need.”
Senate Republicans then attempted to pass multiple bills that burned the Jimmy Kimmel test and pissed on the ashes, and Cassidy cheerfully voted for every one of ’em. And now. he’s actively leading a frighteningly viable crusade to ensure that many children with congenital heart disease, and countless other people with pre-existing conditions, will not get the help they need:
What’s so odd is that Cassidy used to recognize this. Should Washington slash the amount of resources for making insurance affordable and throw the problem over to the states? Cassidy didn’t used to think so. “There’s a widespread recognition that the federal government, Congress, has created the right for every American to have health care,” he said in March. What about the Republican proposal to let insurers sell skimpy coverage for less money? Cassidy used to avoid the usual euphemisms and admit this was what most people called “terrible coverage.” (“I realized the way you lower premiums is that you have terrible coverage,” he told the American Hospital Association in May.)
The old Cassidy believed health care had to be written with some care, working through committees. (“I think anytime you bypass regular order in the Senate, the committees of jurisdiction, it’s a little bit problematic.”) The new Cassidy wants to rush his bill into law through budget reconciliation, avoiding hearings and compressing debate.
And the old Cassidy believed the Congressional Budget Office had an important role in studying legislation: “You have to have an umpire, even if the umpire occasionally gets it wrong, because otherwise you are only accepting analysis by people with motivations [to] define certain answers, and so I am very reluctant to disregard what the CBO score is,” he said in March. The new Cassidy insists the CBO should be ignored: “I just don’t care about the coverage numbers, because their methodology has proven to be wrong,” he now declares. “And ours, frankly, empirically, is correct.”
Whether the exact size of the coverage losses from a piece of legislation as vague as Cassidy’s can be calculated is a fair question. But there’s no doubt cutting the federal subsidy by a third will make health care unaffordable to a huge number of Americans. Cassidy’s plan is to rush his bill into law as quickly as possible, before stakeholders or outside analysts can get a proper handle on its enormous effects.
There is no generally circulating theory to explain Cassidy’s reversal. Behavior that can be adequately explained by ignorance usually does not require venality. Few politicians are public policy experts. Cassidy used to believe there was no magic way around the problem of financing health care for people who can’t afford it, a finding that inconveniently put him at odds with his party’s long-standing promises. Now he has probably found a right-wing health care “expert” who has “explained” to him that such a solution actually exists, if you simply transform concepts like state flexibility and innovation into a magic elixir. Whatever the explanation, the brief moral awakening of Bill Cassidy has come to a screeching halt.
It’s not easy to be one of the most reprehensible people in the Republican Senate conference, but Cassidy pulled it off. And let’s also throw a lot of brickbats to fellow faux-moderate Lindsey Graham.