Editorials

Jimmy Kimmel, John McCain, advocates, town hall protesters – heroes in war on Obamacare

Host Jimmy Kimmel appears during a taping of “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” earlier this year in Los Angeles. (Randy Holmes/ABC via AP)
Host Jimmy Kimmel appears during a taping of “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” earlier this year in Los Angeles. (Randy Holmes/ABC via AP) AP

How sick are Americans of the Republican efforts to kill the Affordable Care Act?

So sick that it’s almost funny, as the Los Angeles-based late night host Jimmy Kimmel has shown.

Last week, Kimmel joined the ranks of heroes in the debate over health care, after GOP Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina tried to ram yet another repeal of Obamacare through Congress. Cassidy “lied right to my face,” Kimmel told his national audience of millions, and he wasn’t joking.

Kimmel’s own infant son was born with a congenital heart defect. It had awakened the performer to the desperate necessity of good health insurance.

Back in May, the affable comedian had broken down on TV, telling his son’s story, using his monologue to urge Congress to preserve and strengthen the Affordable Care Act. Cassidy went on Kimmel’s show afterward to pander, promising not to support any health care bill that didn’t protect families from lifetime caps on coverage and exclusions for pre-existing conditions.

Of course, the Cassidy-Graham bill, which the two senators cynically tried to rush to passage, shattered that pledge and then some. The measure, which ain’t dead till it’s dead, would repeal Obamacare, end the Medicaid expansion, and redistribute smaller and smaller amounts of money back to the states in the form of less and less helpful block grants.

Meanwhile, millions of Americans would lose coverage, and insurance companies would be invited, state by state, to once again price those with preexisting conditions out of the market. Californians would suffer most, including 1,667,200 in the state’s 14 Republican congressional districts.

An analysis by the UC Berkeley Labor Center determined that the state would suffer “unfathomable federal funding losses.” Even employer-based insurance would be hurt.

All for what? Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley answered that question in a call with his home state reporters: “You know, I could maybe give you 10 reasons why this bill shouldn’t be considered. But Republicans campaigned on this so often that you have a responsibility to carry out what you said in the campaign. That’s pretty much as much of a reason as the substance of the bill.”

That’s not a good enough reason. And neither is the reported annoyance among rich Republican donors, who have made a sick ideological game out of what, for the rest of us, is a life-and-death issue.

The Affordable Care Act has grown more popular with every Republican attempt to overturn it. On Friday, a Washington Post-ABC News poll reported 56 percent of Americans prefer Obamacare to Cassidy-Graham.

To the extent that that majority speaks up, they, too, are heroes. Watching Republicans such as California’s own Rep. Tom McClintock ignore the needs even of voters in their own districts, it may be tempting to believe that your call or letter or town hall protest doesn’t matter. It does.

Kudos, too, to advocates such as Health Access California’s Anthony Wright, who deserves a medal for the data he has mustered on behalf of vulnerable Californians. And Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, who has put the nation and bipartisanship first, even as he fights off brain cancer, and who last week said he could not vote for Cassidy-Graham in good conscience, will go down in his final days as one of America’s great patriots.

It is shocking that Congress has come to this, and sickening to witness. Americans can’t be blamed if at this point they are, like Kimmel, laughing to beat back their tears.

At the end of this week, the clock will run out on the procedural rule that would let Senate Republicans wreck the health of the country without votes from both parties. Here’s hoping they come to their senses before then.

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