GOP Congressman Clarifies Controversial Remarks About Uninsured Americans


Rep. Bill Cassidy, the GOP frontrunner in the Louisiana Senate race against incumbent Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu, is seeking to clarify a recent comment he made suggesting that the uninsured are "relatively less sophisticated, less comfortable with forms, less educated."

In an audio recording obtained by BuzzFeed of Cassidy's address to the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association last week, the representative from Louisiana's 6th Congressional District laid out an alternative health care approach to the Affordable Care Act under which anyone who falls below a certain income level would automatically have a health savings account and catastrophic coverage unless they decide to opt out.

"That I think actually reflects the reality of who the uninsured are relatively less sophisticated, less comfortable with forms, less educated," Cassidy said, according to the recording. "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, a physician and has spent much of his career working in a clinic that provides health care to Louisiana's uninsured, defended his remarks to ABC News, saying in a statement that Obamacare lacks "compassion."

"As a doctor, I can tell you that you need an honest diagnosis before you can provide the needed treatment," Cassidy said. "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. 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."

The Affordable Care Act is widely unpopular in Louisiana and has become a central issue in this year's midterm election. Landrieu voted in favor of the law in the Senate; Cassidy voted against it in the House.

In addition, Cassidy can also be heard on the recording saying that Obamacare is leading to the break-up of some families. He asserted that some married couples are getting divorced because they aren't able to obtain benefits otherwise.

"Under the president's health care law, some couples divorce, because that is the only way they can get benefits," Cassidy said, accoriding to the recording. "Since I think break-up of the family is one of the greatest problems in our society, that's wrong. In this solution, families would pool their dollars and as a family, would purchase a family policy which is typically a better deal."

Cassidy's campaign did not elaborate about his claim that the health care law is causing family strife.

Cassidy went on to tell the audience that "we are fortunate growing up in the South" and wondered if Obama "ever worked with a poor person" as a community organizer.

"We were fortunate growing up in the South. The president is a community organizer, you wonder if he ever worked with a poor person," he can be heard saying. "Insurance people they will tell you that they will go to a company and an employer will pay for everything, and there are some people who will not sign up. Turns out, those are my patients. They're illiterate. I'm not saying that to be mean. I say that in compassion. They cannot read. The idea 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 on understanding of who is having the hardest time in our economy."