A late-night comedian isn't supposed to make you cry, but Jimmy Kimmel did, Dean Obeidallah writes
Kimmel made an emotional plea: "No parent should ever have to decide if they can afford to save their child's life"
Editor’s Note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM’s radio’s daily program “The Dean Obeidallah Show” and a columnist for The Daily Beast. Follow him @deanofcomedy. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.
A late-night comedian isn’t supposed to make you cry. But on Monday night, Jimmy Kimmel caused many – including me – to shed a tear while watching his emotional plea for compassionate health care coverage for children. While fighting tears himself, Kimmel remarked, “No parent should ever have to decide if they can afford to save their child’s life. It just shouldn’t happen. Not here.”
Before that emotional moment, Kimmel had opened his late-night show by explaining that his wife had given birth on April 21 to their son, William “Billy” John Kimmel. The newborn appeared fine at first, but a short time later, Kimmel was told his baby had a life-threatening heart condition that required emergency surgery to repair.
Kimmel recounted waiting for the doctor to tell him how the surgery went, “It was the longest three hours of my life.” He then shared a photo of his adorable child while explaining that the surgery was a success, though his son will require additional surgery in the future.
Kimmel went on from there to make a plea directed at members of Congress, who are considering whether to support the amended Trump-championed health care plan, which as Politifact concluded, would appear to “weaken existing protections for people with pre-existing conditions.”
The late-night comedian first offered a little history about America before the Affordable Care Act (ACA). “We were brought up to believe that we live in the greatest country in the world, but until a few years ago, millions and millions of us had no access to health insurance at all.”
He added that before the ACA mandated coverage for pre-existing conditions, “if you were born with congenital heart disease like my son was, there was a good chance you would never be able to get health insurance because you had a pre-existing condition.” He added, “(If) you were born with a pre-existing condition and if your parents didn’t have medical insurance, you might not even live long enough to get denied because of a pre-existing condition.”
Kimmel is correct. Before the ACA, health insurers could and did deny coverage for children born with heart problems, like his son, because the carriers claimed it was a pre-existing condition.
As noted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, coverage was denied by health insurance companies for a range of congenital disorders under the guise of those being pre-existing conditions, despite the fact that the baby literally didn’t exist before being born with the ailment.
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Why would we as a nation ever want to go back to that time? A January Pew Poll found that Americans want our government to guarantee more health coverage, not less. That poll found that 60% of Americans say the government should be responsible for “ensuring health care coverage for all Americans.” This includes 52% of Republicans whose families earn $30,000 a year or less.
Kimmel concluded by imploring the members of Congress who are considering repealing ACA and replacing it with the less protective plan: “If your baby is going to die and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make.” He added poignantly, “I think that’s something that whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat or something else, we all agree on that, right? … Don’t let partisan squabbles divide us on something every decent person wants.”
Kimmel is 100% correct. Now let’s hope that the Republican members of Congress understand that as well.