As a member of Congress – and would-be U.S. senator – one would like to think Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) would be concerned about how best to help struggling Louisianans receive access to affordable medical care.
Instead, the congressman seems focusing on blaming the uninsured, suggesting they’re just not “sophisticated” enough to get coverage. Andrew Kaczynski obtained a recording of Cassidy speaking last week at the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association’s annual meeting, talking up a scaled-down alternative to the Affordable Care Act, which would offer far less than the current reform law.
Speaking about his health care plan, Cassidy, who is also a physician, said it “actually reflects the reality of who the uninsured are: relatively less sophisticated, less comfortable with forms, less educated.”“That I think actually reflects the reality of who the uninsured are relatively less sophisticated, less comfortable with forms, less educated. Those are the folks that – not all – there’s a guy who goes to my church who’s uninsured, who’s middle-class but couldn’t get it because he has Type I diabetes. So it’s not all, but it is the folks who I think are going to have the hardest time reaching.”Cassidy also said of President Obama, “you wonder if he ever worked with a poor person” and called some uninsured “illiterate,” which he said he was saying “in compassion.”
In recent years, it’s become common to hear commentary questioning whether conservative lawmakers hold struggling Americans in low, personal regard.
Cassidy’s comments will likely reinforce those concerns.
I saw some pushback last night, suggesting Cassidy’s comments shouldn’t necessarily be seen as a “gaffe” because, the argument goes, maybe he’s right. If Americans lacking health insurance really are “less sophisticated,” “less comfortable with forms,” “less educated,” and often “illiterate,” then the congressman shouldn’t be criticized for telling the truth.
The trouble, of course, is that there’s no evidence to suggest Cassidy’s assessment is in any way correct.
Sy Mukherjee argued, for example, that Cassidy’s take on the uninsured “doesn’t exactly line up with reality.”
About 18 percent of Americans are uninsured – and just under half of them have gone without insurance for at least five years, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.That’s not for a lack of trying. In fact, about 31 percent of uninsured adults tried signing up for Medicaid in the past five years. But most of them were rejected because states’ pre-Obamacare Medicaid eligibility requirements were often so stringent that only the poorest Americans with children could qualify for coverage.Furthermore, more than one in five uninsured adults tried buying an individual health insurance plan within the past five years, but the majority found the plans to be unaffordable. That’s not surprising considering that the pre-ACA individual market resembled the Wild West, with nothing preventing insurers from hiking up rates for women, or people with chronic illnesses, or charging more once a policyholder got sick (not to mention the millions of people who were denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions).
I imagine it’s easier to simply view most uninsured Americans as ignorant, but it’ll be easier to address the problem if policymakers first understand the problem.
Cassidy, a three-term congressman, is the leading Republican candidate taking on Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) in Louisiana this year.