Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) joined SiriusXM host Raheem Kassam on Thursday’s Breitbart News Daily to talk about the Graham-Cassidy Obamacare repeal bill and its prospects in the Senate.
Kassam asked why the federal government still has a role to play in health insurance under Cassidy’s reform plan. “Why aren’t we looking at straight repeal?” he inquired.
“Because we can’t pass straight repeal,” Cassidy replied bluntly. “Believe me, I would like to do something different. We failed on straight repeal in August. We came in at 49 votes and it stopped at 50. What we’re trying to do is not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”
Cassidy said his bill “drives a stake in the heart of single-payer and just eviscerates Obamacare, the power that it’s brought to Washington, DC, and returns the power to the state and the patient.”
He explained that under his plan, taxpayer money “does not go to insurance companies unless the patient or the state decide it does.”
“We have an amendment from Ted Cruz which would allow a state to pre-fund a health savings account, and then the patient might choose an insurance company, but it does not go directly to insurance companies. It stops with the state and with the patient,” he said.
“There is not a penalty for non-participation unless the state decides to,” said Cassidy. “We have all these states saying they need more money. We say, ‘Okay, we’re repealing the individual mandate penalties. If you want to stick it to your people in your state, do it – states’ rights!’ But we’re not going to do it on a federal level.”
Kassam asked if the bill allows insurance to be purchased across state lines.
“If a state wishes to allow insurance to be bought across state lines, absolutely, yes,” Cassidy replied. “We are turning things over to those insurance commissioners. You can imagine that an insurance commissioner in Texas would want people in Texarkana to be able to buy insurance in Arkansas – similarly, according to Geico, in Bristol, Tennessee, and Bristol, Virginia. We want those things to be worked out.”
Kassam mentioned an exemption that “takes Planned Parenthood funding away for a year” within the Cassidy-Graham bill. “What happens after that year?” he asked.
“It returns,” Cassidy conceded. “We are stuck with reconciliation laws, which just restrict what we can do. We are trying to thread a needle. So the way it works, it can happen for a year and not after that.”
“Everybody gave up on repealing Obamacare except Lindsey Graham, me, Dean Heller, and Ron Johnson. I’ve been working on this. I’ve been thinking about this since I did a residency in a public hospital in Los Angeles and thought there must be a better way,” said Cassidy, who is a medical doctor.
“That was 30 years ago. In the 25 years I spent in Louisiana’s charity hospital system for the uninsured and the poorly insured, I thought about it. And then, finally, when I got elected to Congress, I’ve been writing legislation. I never quit, and I never will, until we get something that gives the power back to the patient and the state,” he vowed.
“How it is that you’re a physician for 30 years and end up being told by somebody like Jimmy Kimmel that you’re a liar?” Kassam wondered, referring to the high-profile feud between Sen. Cassidy and the late-night talk-show host.
“I wish Jimmy would give me a call,” Cassidy sighed. “He’s only heard from those on the left who wish to preserve Obamacare. The guy is passionate. His son almost died on the day of his son’s birth. I get it. We feel for the man. I feel because I’ve had patients in similar situations. But you don’t accept one side’s argument without speaking to the other. All I would ask is that he would ask me.”
Kassam asked if Cassidy feels that Kimmel has been misrepresenting his positions on healthcare reform.
“He’s wrong,” Cassidy answered. “Everything I said in that original interview was correct. There is a tension: how do we pay for things, and how do we care for those who need help? We try and resolve that tension.”
“We could spend our entire gross domestic product on health care. We really could,” he pointed out. “You’ve got to, at some point, say we also have to spend on the military, and we have to spend on roads, and we have to spend on infrastructure. If you don’t, then your society is worse off. Poverty increases. Health care worsens. We try and resolve that tension. I hope we have a chance to talk.”
Kassam asked how Cassidy would go about resolving his tensions with Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who has declared his opposition to the Cassidy-Graham bill.
“Rand is like the folks from the left. He seizes upon one thing, he says it’s not perfect, and, therefore, he opposes the all. If you will, the end result is the preservation of Obamacare and a march to single-payer,” Cassidy said.
“I can see this legislation is not perfect. There are things in there I don’t like. But if we’re going to pass it, you accept some things you don’t like,” he advised.
“By the way, I’m married. Believe me, I learned a long time ago, I don’t get my way on everything,” he noted wryly.
“The point being is that if he really wishes to get rid of Obamacare and drive a stake in the heart of single-payer, accept one or two things that aren’t perfect,” Cassidy said to Paul. “By the way, what he voted for, the skinny bill, the skinny repeal in August, actually kept more of Obamacare than this does.”
Kassam asked for a prediction of the bill’s fate in the Senate.
“We’re going to vote early next week. We’ve got states that are clear winners. Maine does fantastic, and so does Virginia and Missouri,” Cassidy said.
“If those Democratic senators in those states decide that they want to vote for the folks in their state, as opposed to voting for the party line of the Democratic Party, we’ll win with more than 51,” he predicted.
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