Speaking to James Rosen on Fox News Sunday, Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy, changed his position on Donald Trump’s decision to roll back subsidies to insurance companies under the Affordable Care Act.
“What the president is focusing on are middle-class families who are paying $30-40,000 a year for premiums plus deductibles on top of this,” said Cassidy. “If there is something that is damaging the credibility of the Affordable Care Act, it is these premiums which are unaffordable not that which the president is doing.”
But ending the subsidies will mean that insurance companies will likely pass the cost on to consumers including middle-class families, making premiums even less affordable. Cassidy opposed Trump’s measure in August, concerned that cutting the subsidies would hurt middle-class families.
“We got to continue to think about that family around the kitchen table who cannot afford their premiums under the Affordable Care Act as it now is,” Cassidy said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe August 1. “We don’t want to make it worse for them.”
When Rosen pressed him on his previous claim, Cassidy referred to a lower court ruling that the cautionary reduction payments were unconstitutional. Judge Rosemary Collyer of the United States District Court in Washington ruled the subsidies unconstitutional because they were not paid for by Congress. Since it does not appear that the House will provide funds for the Obamacare subsidies, they were likely dead without the president’s action.
So far Cassidy’s biggest legislative attempt has been the failed Graham-Cassidy Bill which would have effectively repealed and replaced the Affordable Care Act and left millions uninsured, according to the Congressional Budget Office. He famously appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live to assure parents like Kimmel that health care reform would not lead to poor families being unable to afford to cover their children. Kimmel later claimed Cassidy “lied to my face.”
During his 2014 Senate campaign, he boasted his 25 years as a physician in the Louisiana public hospital system and tried to make the case that he was a compassionate man. He is a senator from one of America’s poorest states. When Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards decided to expand Medicaid under Obamacare, which his predecessor, Bobby Jindal, had refused to do, Cassidy opposed it.
During a debate on CNN, involving Senators Cassidy, Lindsay Graham, Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar, he frequently claimed that continuing private health insurance means that the people, not the federal government, “have the power.” But the people who can’t afford health care are powerless, and those with the power are the insurance companies. People can vote out politicians who run a health care system poorly. They cannot vote out insurance companies.
And Cassidy should understand this having worked in a public health system, where people are expected to get results not earn profits. In the 1930s, Louisiana governor Huey Long founded Louisiana’s first public hospitals. It was rumored that he was shot and killed by a doctor. Health care makes up one-sixth of the U.S. economy, and insurance and pharmaceutical companies have enormous influence over Congress. They even get away with murder, or at least plenty of accidental overdoses.
So, it is even worth it to Bill Cassidy to improve health care? Profits for insurance companies are at all time highs. The more money they have, the more powerful they are. It makes sense for senators like Cassidy to blame government for the failings of private health care, everyone hates the government.