The 'Last Week Tonight' host says the Republican replacement for Obamacare is the 'Ted Cruz of healthcare legislation'

By Joey Nolfi
March 13, 2017 at 11:27 AM EDT

Upon the Republicans’ publicizing of the American Health Care Act — a potential replacement for the Affordable Care Act — pundits and government officials on both sides of the political spectrum were quick to criticize the proposal, and HBO’s John Oliver is speaking out in a big way.

After slamming the legislation on Sunday’s episode of Last Week Tonight, Oliver played an anti-AHCA commercial starring his recurring Catheter Cowboy personality. To make the message clear to President Donald Trump and his supporters, the PSA will air this Wednesday during Washington, D.C. area broadcasts of Fox & Friends — a morning news show Trump frequently watches — thanks to ad space purchased by Oliver’s show. “Who better to tell Trump what this bill will do than someone who stands to be hurt by it?” Oliver said of Catheter Cowboy. “Someone in his 60s, in rural America, with an unspecified medical problem that requires constant treatment.”

Earlier in the show, Oliver picked apart the legislation. “Yes, it’s finally here: the AHCA,” he said. “You may not have wanted it. It looks awful. But it’s here anyway. Try thinking about it as the legislative equivalent of Pirates of the Caribbean 5: The Curse of Johnny Depp Getting Divorced and Needing the Money.”

Echoing liberal and conservative commentary regarding the AHCA, Oliver labeled the controversial legislation a dud: “Much like the life behind Melania Trump’s eyes, the AHCA looks dead by the time it was introduced in Washington,” he said, noting that the American Medial Association, the American Hospital Association, the American Nurses Association, the AARP, and the conservative advocacy group FreedomWorks had all publicly opposed the AHCA since its details were made public last week.

Oliver explained that the AHCA essentially eliminates Obamacare’s insurance tax credits and replaces them with a flat tax credit to pay for premiums based on age. Essentially, someone under the age of 30 will get $2,000 under the AHCA, while someone over 60 gets $4,000. “Ok, so the older you get, the more money you get. Think of it as the exact opposite of being a woman in Hollywood,” Oliver joked.

With help from an interactive chart made by the Kaiser Family Foundation, he then made a side-by-side comparison of both Obamacare and AHCA tax credits for a county in Oklahoma, revealing that a 60 year old with an annual income of $50,000 receives around $13,350 towards insurance under Obamacare, but under the new bill would only receive the flat $4,000.

The late night host voiced particular concern over the AHCA’s potential impact on Medicaid, which is designed to help lower-income families and individuals — including the elderly — cover costs. Referring to Medicaid during a March 10 interview on The Hugh Hewitt Show, House Speaker Paul Ryan championed the AHCA as “de-federalizing an entitlement, block granting it back to the states, and capping its growth rate,” something Oliver likened to “cutting the living s— out of” the program, citing the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ research that says around $370 billion in federal funding will be cut from Medicaid over the next 10 years under the AHCA. States would then have to cover the resulting gap to maintain current levels of coverage, resulting in around 16 to 10 million people losing coverage.

“People are going to be hurt by this bill. Those hit the hardest who stand to lose $5,000 or more under the new plan ironically are a group that voted for President Donald Trump by a huge margin. Which is pretty frustrating,” Oliver mused before playing a news segment which observed that, under the AHCA, wealthy Americans in the top 1 percent get a cut of $33,000 annually, while the top 0.1 percent get a cut of $197,000. “It’s like if the people of Pompeii voted for the volcano.”

He also played a clip from a recent Tucker Carlson interview with Ryan, during which the conservative host told Ryan: “It’s kind of a hard sell to say, ‘Repeal Obamacare, but we’re going to send more money to the people who’ve already gotten the richest over the last 10 years.’ That’s what this does. I’m not a leftist, that’s true.”

“This bill seems almost universally hated in Washington,” Oliver continued. “It is truly the Ted Cruz of healthcare legislation.”

Oliver also dove into the White House’s involvement in the pushing of the bill, pointing out a Fox News segment in which Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s senior counselor, attempted to deflect from calling the AHCA “Trumpcare.”

“Trump is not clamoring to put his name on this bill and he has put his name on some of the s——t products in human history,” Oliver responded. “He put his name on a vodka even though he doesn’t drink… He put his name on Trump ties, which looked like the answer to the question, ‘If erectile dysfunction was a fabric, what fabric would it be?’ He even slapped his first and last names on Donald Trump, Jr., a man who looks like a 6 year old’s drawing of a mean bank teller. Trump not wanting his name on the healthcare bill is like Tyler Perry not wanting his name anywhere near Jew: A Madea Hanukkah.”

Oliver speculated that Trump’s distance from the bill is because it “contains almost nothing Trump promised,” which makes sense, because if things the president promised on the campaign trail were included in the bill — like interstate shopping across state lines — the AHCA would then classify as something other than a budget reconciliation bill, according to Ryan’s recent comments on Capitol Hill.

“He is right. For procedural reasons, this is being presented as a budget bill, which Republicans can pass with a simple Senate majority. Any non-budget related policy change requires 60 votes to beat a filibuster, so that is pretty much a dead end. This bill is, in all likelihood, all Trump can get passed to replace Obamacare, so it is f—ing important everyone understands what is in it,” Oliver stressed. “The ‘something terrific’ he promised — better coverage, lower costs, no one losing their health insurance — well, this bill is not it. The bill Trump is championing will actually increase costs for older, poor Americans, and will cause millions of people to lose coverage.”

Watch Oliver’s full take-down of the AHCA — which you can read in full here — above. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver airs Sundays at 11 p.m. ET on HBO.

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