Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), the GOP front-runner to take on Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) this cycle, sought to clarify comments he made characterizing the uninsured as “relatively less sophisticated, less comfortable with forms, less educated.”
During the event, the congressman criticized the Affordable Care Act, with its involved sign-up process, as being inaccessible for those who need the most help. He referenced his own experience treating the uninsured at community clinics.
“They’re illiterate,” he said. “I’m not saying that to be mean; I say that in compassion. They cannot read. The idea that they’re going to go on the internet and work through a 16-page document to put in their data and sign up does not reflect an understanding of who is having the hardest time in our economy.”
Cassidy suggested instead automatic enrollment for anyone under a certain income level into a health savings account and catastrophic health coverage unless they actively opt out, much like Medicare.
“That, I think, actually reflects the reality of who the uninsured are: relatively less sophisticated, less comfortable with forms, less educated,” he said.
He added that “not all” of the uninsured fit that profile, but “it is the folks who I think [they] are going to have the hardest time reaching.”
A 2012 survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control does support Cassidy’s assertion. It indicates those without a high school diploma have the highest rates of uninsurance of all educational levels.
But Louisiana Democrats pounced on the comments, with Andrew Zucker, communications director for the Democratic group Campaign for Louisiana, charging Cassidy “arrogantly insulted hundreds of thousands of uninsured Louisianans” with his comments.
Zucker charged that, rather than a lack of education, it’s Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s (R) refusal to expand the state’s Medicaid program under ObamaCare that’s preventing many of the state’s residents from getting insurance.
Cassidy later clarified that he understands the uninsured come from a varied swath of society, and that’s precisely why the ACA is flawed.
"It is self-evident to anyone who has worked with the uninsured, as I have for decades, that the uninsured come from all segments of society. This includes the more and the less educated,” he said in a statement. “That's exactly the point I made and make: if we seek to be truly compassionate, our policies must meet people where they are. Obamacare's one-size-fits-all model lacks this basic measure of compassion."