During a radio interview on Thursday, Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) made a case that the health care bill bearing his name must protect people with preexisting conditions, because President Trump said so in a tweet.
In response to host C.L. Bryant’s question about how the so-called Graham-Cassidy legislation will affect people with preexisting conditions, Cassidy’s immediately brought up a tweet Trump published Wednesday evening.
I would not sign Graham-Cassidy if it did not include coverage of pre-existing conditions. It does! A great Bill. Repeal & Replace.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 20, 2017
“We address the problem of preexisting conditions, indeed last night President Trump tweeted that he would not sign a bill that did not address the issue of preexisting conditions — really strong statement,” Cassidy said. “We have language in there that says, ‘A governor may decide he wants to try, or she wants to try to lower health care costs and can come up with a plan to do so, but whatever plan they have must make sure that those with preexisting conditions have access to affordable and adequate coverage.’”
Cassidy continued: “Someone asked me, ‘What does affordable mean?’ Well, you look it up in Merriam-Webster and it says, ‘Affordable is low cost, you can afford it.’ So if affordable is that someone can afford it, that’s pretty good.”
Suffice it to say Trump’s Twitter account should not be used as an authoritative source for anything, given that Trump has tweeted out fake news about former President Obama’s birth certificate:
An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that @BarackObama‘s birth certificate is a fraud.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 6, 2012
Since winning the election, Trump has spread fake news about voter fraud costing him the popular vote:
In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 27, 2016
Falsely claimed on Twitter that his phones were wiretapped:
How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2017
James Comey leaked CLASSIFIED INFORMATION to the media. That is so illegal!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 10, 2017
Trump is regularly manipulated by Twitter bots. Since the beginning of last month, he’s used Twitter to endorse a hoax story about an American general who purportedly mass-murdered Muslims, and in one instance managed to cram four false statements into a single tweet about nuclear weapons.
So perhaps unsurprisingly, despite what Cassidy and the president would have you believe, Graham-Cassidy does not protect people with preexisting conditions.
As ThinkProgress previously detailed, Graham-Cassidy allows states to allow to insurers to discriminate against people with preexisting conditions, charging them more and possibly pricing them out of the market. On Wednesday, ThinkProgress spoke Laura Packard, a self-employed woman with stage 4 cancer who faces a possible $140,000 surcharge on her annual health premium if Graham-Cassidy becomes law.
“I cannot afford [a $140,000 premium] and I suspect most people cannot,” Packard said.
Cassidy has been quick to point a provision in his bill requiring any state that applies for a waiver to describe “how the state intends to maintain adequate and affordable health insurance coverage for individuals with preexisting conditions.”
But as Chris Sloan, senior manager at the health research firm Avalere, told Vox, states “could stretch the definition pretty broadly of what counts.”
“Maybe you fund a high-risk pool that only allows in some number of people, and that counts,” he said. “It’s a pretty wide space.”
In another part of his interview with C.L. Bryant, Cassidy addressed Jimmy Kimmel’s public criticism of him. During his show on Tuesday night, Kimmel called Cassidy a liar, saying that while Cassidy promised he would only support health care legislation that makes sure babies like his son who need expensive surgery can get them without families having to worry about cost, the bill bearing his name doesn’t live up to that.
But Cassidy said Kimmel’s perspective is ignorant and incomplete.
“Lemme say, I understand Mr. Kimmel’s passion — his son was born and almost died on the first day of his life — but you know, if you only hear from people with one perspective, you don’t have a complete perspective,” he said. “And I don’t say that to kind of patronize, but it’s just reality. And if you understand the bill, you understand that’s not true.”
“We do lots of things in this that we think work, but people don’t understand that,” Cassidy continued. “It’s easier to say that we end Medicaid — well we do, but we give states the money that they would’ve received and allow them to do something else with it.”
Unlike Obamacare funding, the block grants Cassidy is referring to would steadily decline over time. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities found that Graham-Cassidy’s $239 billion cut in federal funding over the next decade would not only hurt blue states, but also red ones like Alaska, Arizona, and Maine. Republican leaders have been trying to strike deals with key senators that protect their states from the worst impacts of Graham-Cassidy, in exchange for their vote.
An analysis by Andy Slavitt, who ran the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under President Obama, found that 32 million people could lose health coverage by the end of this decade if Cassidy’s bill becomes law.