Jimmy Kimmel found himself in the middle of the national health care debate last week — and the results have been “emotional” for the 49-year-old late night talk show host.
In Monday’s Jimmy Kimmel Live monologue, Kimmel opened up about the personal toll he’s felt since speaking out agains the Graham-Cassidy bill — the latest GOP-effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (known as “Obamacare”) written by Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham.
Kimmel has been a a fierce opponent of the Graham-Cassidy bill ever since Cassidy falsely claimed on Kimmel’s show in May that his new bill would cover all infants, regardless of their family’s ability to pay — a benchmark the senator called “The Jimmy Kimmel Test.”
It’s a cause that’s close to Kimmel’s heart. His 4-month-old son, Billy, needed open heart surgery three days after his birth in April due to a congenital heart defect. There are still two more operations to go.
“That experience really opened my eyes to how difficult life can be for other parents in that situation and how important it is that families are covered like we are,” Kimmel explained Monday as he made yet another impassioned plea for coverage of pre-existing conditions. “Obviously, this is personal thing for me.’
He’s not alone. In the wake of his three scathing monologues against the bill and President Trump, Kimmel was approached by “probably 200 people” who weren’t shy in sharing their positive experiences with Obamacare.
“I was in three cities over the weekend and also had a charity event on Saturday night,” Kimmel said. “I met so many people who came up to me, strangers. Almost every one of them was a stranger wanting to tell me that the Affordable Care Act — that our president and half of our senators are so desperately trying to kill — saved or drastically improved their lives, members of their families’ lives, and/or their children’s lives.”
“I heard these stories over and over again,” Kimmel added. “I saw pictures of children who are not well. People got teared-up, and quite a few of these people told me they’re Republicans. Republican people – not politicians. There’s a big difference.”
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Kimmel pointedout that most Republican senators are voting for the bill despite what their constituents think — citing Public Policy poll this weekend that claimed only 47 percent of Republican voters approve of Graham-Cassidy even though 90 percent of Republican Senators are planning to vote for it.
“Our Republican Senators are still trying to pass this new bill because they don’t actually care what you think – they want you to think what they think,” Kimmel said. “That’s why they keep saying Obamacare is a ‘disaster.’ You hear that a lot.”
“Obamacare definitely needs work, but a disaster?” Kimmel asked. “Think about this, did anyone have to convince you Hurricane Harvey was a disaster? No, because it was a disaster. If someone has to keep telling you something is a disaster, it probably isn’t one.”
He also rebuked accusations that he’s some sort of left-wing pawn.
“Since I started speaking about this, I’ve been fact-checked against [Senator] Bill Cassidy by at least six different organizations; every one of them came down on my side,” he said. “Every major health organization in the United States is on my side, every major charity that has to do with health and Medicare is on my side, because the facts were on my side. It has nothing to do with me, it’s just a matter of what’s true and what isn’t true.”
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On Friday, Kimmel found a strong advocate on his side when Sen. John McCain said he “cannot in good conscience” support the Graham-Cassidy bill — an announcement that makes it extremely unlikely the bill will pass.
The Arizona Republican, who is good friends with co-sponsor Sen. Lindsey Graham, had previously cast the decisive vote against the last Obamacare repeal effort in July, arguing that the Senate had not followed the proper procedure for major legislation in Congress.
In a statement, he made the same criticisms of the current bill.
“I believe we could do better working together, Republicans and Democrats, and have not really tried,” he said. “Nor could I support it without knowing how much it will cost, how it will effect insurance premiums, and how many people will be helped or hurt by it.”
Kimmel effusively thanked the ailing senator for declining to support the proposal both on Twitter and in his monologue Monday.
“The truth is, John McCain probably saved the Republican Party by doing this,” Kimmel said. “Because – if you think Graham-Cassidy is unpopular now – wait until people actually have to live with it. Or not live with it. Then who gets blamed? The Republican party. This is one of the rare moments when we actually needed Congress to do nothing. Which is what they are really good at by the way.”
Jimmy Kimmel Live airs weeknights (11:35 p.m. ET) on ABC.