Making America sick again: Will Trumpcare fail the ultimate Jimmy Kimmel test?

It is absolutely stunning to see, hear and experience the power of democracy - open debate in society and social media - being led by a Hollywood celebrity.

 |  5-minute read |   25-09-2017
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Come September 30, 2017, we will know whether Trumpcare will pass the "Jimmy Kimmel Test". More than US president Donald J Trump, it is the Republican party aficionados who have staked their all in the last ditch effort to "repeal and replace Obamacare".

For the past seven years, US Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and House speaker Paul Ryan - with an unparalleled, visceral hatred and animosity "not so much to the healthcare as much as to Obama the individual" - have defiantly stated that Republicans would remove Obamacare "lock, stock and barrel to the dustbin of history".

They have tried and failed twice, in just eight months.

Obamacare - the universal healthcare regime that Trump's predecessor Barack Obama brought in despite the stiffest legislative Opposition - passed the constitutional test by 5:4 majority with chief justice John Roberts, a conservative, lining with the liberals in the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). It was a landmark win for Obama against all odds - SCOTUS even "invented tax constructs in indulging in naked judicial legislation" as associate justice Antonin Scalia furiously dissented.

But Obamacare was brought into force and the "rightists" vowed to "repeal and replace" the scheme "within days of the end of Democratic party/Obama second and last term".

Try they did. The second time they almost made it. It was the dissenting vote of John McCain - at 3am in the Senate voting, with a thumbs-down, that ensured Obamacare would not go as yet.

trump-care_092517041544.jpgThe Jimmy Kimmel test was based on the talk show host's personal experience of his young son undergoing a heart surgery. Photo: Reuters

US vice president Mike Pence went to the Senate floor personally, at the instigation of Trump who was starved of a legislative victory. Then, just before the vote, Trump himself called McCain, who refused to budge, for he said "my opposition to Obamacare was not blind enough to let in a less than fair replacement".

Trump then tweeted his ferocity and called McCain names:

"No big deal," said McCain, who was exposed to Trump's meanness even during the US presidential election campaign, when Trump ridiculed the former's capture during the Vietnam War.

Twice bitten, the third time more eager than before, Trump is desperate. Now senators Dr Bill Cassidy and Lindsay Graham have come up with another Trumpcare version, which they claim would be an efficacious replacement. But more than 71 medical associations have pronounced it a "half-baked and killer construct to the pre-existing disease coverage and deleterious impact to take away millions off protection they are enjoying at present". But Trump has again tweeted his support and McCain has received special attention.

However, the Cassidy-Graham Bill is unstable for the sole reason that it has failed the Jimmy Kimmel test! During the Senate's earlier attempt to replace Obamacare, Jimmy Kimmel, on his Late Night show, interviewed Dr Cassidy - the joint protagonist of the new bill - and extracted the "promise that Dr Cassidy will never support a bill that would not pass the Jimmy Kimmel test".

The Jimmy Kimmel test was based on the talk show host's personal experience of his young son undergoing a heart surgery. Kimmel noted that Obamacare/Medicaid would protect a patient like his son - with a prognosis to undergo three more surgeries - while the Trump replacement would feed "the patient to the medical wolves".

obamacare-healthcare_092517041630.jpgThe Republican party is moving heaven and earth to overcome the talk show host's unselfish and well-informed one-man fight. Photo: Reuters

Jimmy Kimmel said that as a popular Hollywood celebrity, he faced no financial difficulty with his son's treatment, but he asked, what of the child/family who had no similar financial wherewithal?

So, the talk show host said, any replacement to Obamacare ought to pass the Jimmy Kimmel Test - of protecting the "pre-existing coverage to disease afflicted". Dr Cassidy readily agreed and vowed his support would never go to a bill that did not pass the Jimmy Kimmel Test.

And now comes the Dr Cassidy-Graham bill, which is seen as "totally failing the Jimmy Kimmel Test". Jimmy Kimmel went on air and trashed the legislation, dubbing it "a complete let down and a bill that deserves to be defeated for not securing the lives of the deserving".

Kimmel has refuted word for word Dr Cassidy's explanation - the physician had suggested that "Kimmel did not fully understand" Trumpcare - and excerpts of his show have gone viral, with even the Democratic party's Opposition coming second to it. The Republican party is moving heaven and earth to overcome the talk show host's unselfish and well-informed one-man fight, and Trump has also waded into the debate.

It is absolutely stunning to see, hear and experience the power of the free world - open debate in society and social media - being led by a Hollywood celebrity.

A techno-legal medical healthcare legislation, which tested the SCOTUS' learning and sagacity, has been reduced to the lowest common multiple for better understanding - with the precept of universal coverage to the poor and deserving with pre-existing disease coverage - by a totally unexpected platform: The Late Night Show of an American comedian!

This is the power of democracy: a free society where anyone can have their say and even the most powerful executive, POTUS, no less - and the legislature, the US Congress - has to listen.

Kimmel's is a very powerful statement - a tribute to free, fair and transparent democratic ethos from the oldest democracy - which ought to resonate with us in India, the largest democracy.

We will soon find out whether the simple yet profound Jimmy Kimmel Test triumphed over the machinations of the Republican administration, to see the end of the one legacy that Barack Obama was proud to leave behind.

Or, will the "special interests of Washington", which Trump called the "swamp", prove too powerful to drain for the political stage?

The Jimmy Kimmel test is the ultimate test - of the democracy of the United States itself.

Also read: There's a method to the madness of both Kim Jong-un and Trump

Writer

Vijayaraghavan Narasimhan Vijayaraghavan Narasimhan @narasimhan6

Author is practising advocate in the Madras High Court.

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