Two conservative media reactions to Jimmy Kimmel's emotional plea about preexisting conditions are getting some traction. Both of them show how extremely difficult it will be for the GOP to sell its Obamacare replacement.
The first I noticed late Tuesday night was from the Washington Times's Charles Hurt. It's not at all subtle or sympathetic to Kimmel — the title is literally “Shut up, Jimmy Kimmel, you elitist creep” — and indeed, you can practically see the steam coming out of Hurt's ears:
Yes, that’s right. He just had a kid and the kid nearly died and he wants you to know that if you are not for bloated federal bureaucracy, socialized medicine, higher taxes and tons of more debt piled onto your grandchildren, then you are not a “decent person.”
Actually Jim, if you were a “decent person,” you would shut your fat trap about partisan politics and go care for your kid, who just nearly died, you elitist creep.
Democrats could hardly hope for better reactions than this one.
The second is between the Daily Beast's Matt Lewis and the New Yorker's Ryan Lizza:
LEWIS: I completely understand where Jimmy Kimmel is coming from. The passion I think is sincere. I don’t think that this is the right move for him to do — to politicize this. This is a guy who's incredibly rich, of course. He is not going to have a problem.
LIZZA: He's politicizing this? He's making a moral point that people should be allowed to get insurance.
LEWIS: Look, people do get coverage. If you go to the emergency room, they take care of you. That's actually part of the reason Mitt Romney came up with Romneycare [in Massachusetts]. ... The notion that Republicans are actually getting rid of preexisting conditions is actually not [accurate]. You've said that a couple times today.
LIZZA: With the Meadows-MacArthur amendment, they are gutting the guarantee, absolutely.
LEWIS: No, states can apply for a waiver. If they are granted the waiver, they are then required to set up a high risk pool. Now, it may well be that it prices people out.
There is a credible, conservative case to be made for a more limited government role in health care. The problem is that basically no Republican leaders in Congress are actually making this case right now. Instead, they seem to be trying to cobble together the votes to pass something without worrying about the public relations campaign. They're not really trying to explain why scaling back the preexisting condition guarantee might make sense; they're pretending the change doesn't exist.
And the reason — which I've written about often and will return to — is that it's just so difficult to take a government benefit away once it's been bestowed. Remember George W. Bush's effort to privatize Social Security last decade? You can believe all day that the private sector would be better at dealing with XYZ problem, but once it has been delivered by the government, you are injecting uncertainty into something that's become certain. You are taking something away. You can argue about cost savings and bloated bureaucracy all day, but that's not visceral. Kimmel's monologue was visceral.
(And then you have voices like Hurt's who don't even try to sympathize and just lash out.)
This was the folly in the GOP's Obamacare repeal efforts from the beginning. And Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) acknowledged it in a candid quote Tuesday:.
Mark Sanford not optimistic on OCare repeal, tells me that "full repeal was, in essence, a pipe dream from the very start."
— Alexandra Jaffe (@ajjaffe) May 2, 2017
Lewis is right that Kimmel's comments aren't as apolitical as some would like to believe. Kimmel's passion is real, but he pretty clearly comes down on the side of a firm government guarantee for coverage of preexisting conditions without such high-risk pools. We all like to think the things we believe in are morally sound and not partisan or political — President Barack Obama would often argue that issues like gun control were moral and not political — but our worldview affects everything we believe. Conservatives simply believe government isn't the solution to all of society's problems.
The problem for the GOP — the immovable object — is that Kimmel's passionate view on this particular political issue is now the law of the land. And it's clear that the Meadows-MacArthur amendment could raise costs substantially for those with preexisting conditions — so much so that, as Lewis acknowledges, these people could be priced out of the market.
It's just such a difficult issue for the GOP to litigate. Right now they're really only doing it internally, and even that doesn't appear to be working.