'Jimmy Kimmel Test': Senator Talks Health Care With Kimmel - NBC Southern California
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'Jimmy Kimmel Test': Senator Talks Health Care With Kimmel

"I am all about people having the insurance they need but... we have to be able to afford it," Sen. Bill Cassidy told Kimmel

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    A week after Jimmy Kimmel's emotional monologue about his newborn son Billy's open-heart surgery, the late night host again tackled health care with his opening monologue Monday night and spoke to a Republican senator who believes Americans should "have insurance that passes the Jimmy Kimmel test."

    Back on ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live" Monday after a week's absence, Kimmel said baby Billy is recovering well from open-heart surgery for a birth defect and thanked well-wishers. Then he charged back into the fraught topic.

    "I made an emotional speech that was seen by millions, and as a result of my powerful words on that night, Republicans in Congress had second thoughts about repeal and replace" of the Affordable Care Act, he joked. "I saved health insurance in the United States of America!"

    "What's that? I didn't save it? They voted against it anyway?" Kimmel said. The House approved the American Health Care Act last week.

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    He dismissed those who labeled him an elitist — as a youngster, his family bought powdered milk because they couldn't afford fresh, he said — and pretended to repent for his previous comments.

    "I'd like to apologize for saying that children in America should have health care. It was insensitive, it was offensive, and I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me," Kimmel said.

    Kimmel talked to Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana in a video interview. The trained physician had said on CCN last week that health care should be measured by what he called the "Jimmy Kimmel test."

    "Would the child born with a congenital heart disease (like Kimmel's) 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 told CNN's John Berman. "So simple answer: I want to make sure folks get the care they need."

    Cassidy expanded on that idea with Kimmel, explaining that it's up to the Senate now to make the GOP's American Health Care Act work for people, especially middle- and low-income families. The House narrowly passed the controversial bill on May 4.

    "We have to have lower premiums so that if another child is born, that child can get the care she needs not only on the first year but every year thereafter," Cassidy said.

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    Kimmel echoed an opinion he expressed last week when talking about the new — and expensive — health care needs of his family and others in similar situations. 

    He said the "Jimmy Kimmel test" should be that "no family should be denied medical care, emergency or otherwise, because they can't afford it."

    However, the senator stressed that figuring out how to pay for that kind of coverage will be a challenge.

    "I am all about people having the insurance they need but... we have to be able to afford it both in our taxes and in our personal expenses," Cassidy said.

    Kimmel offered a pointed solution.

    "I can think of a way to pay for it: Don't give a huge tax cut to millionaires like me and, instead, leave it how it is," Kimmel said. "That would be one way."

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    Democrats have criticized the Republican health care bill as cutting services for the poor while taxing the rich.

    Cassidy said that in order for Americans to get the kind of affordable health care they want, they need to take their concerns to their senators, who will soon cast their own votes on the GOP bill.

    "We will get there if the American people call their senators," he said, explaining that people should tell Democrat senators to engage in conversations about the bill and Republicans to help in lowering premiums.

    "If we do that, we get an American plan," Cassidy said. "Not Democrat. Not Republican. An American plan, and that's where we need to be."

    AP writer Lynn Elber contributed to this report.