Jimmy Kimmel’s cousin, Dr. Denise Hayes, said Tuesday that the late-night comedian’s emotional monologue about his son’s heart surgery was important for the debate on pre-existing conditions.
“It was necessary for Jimmy to put that out there and put a face, put a personal note to this topic (of pre-existing conditions),” Hayes told CNN’s Erin Burnett on “Erin Burnett OutFront.” “It’s really hard to shy away from this topic when there’s a photo of a beautiful newborn baby attached to the debate.”
When Kimmel spoke on his show about his newborn son’s heart complications, he thanked his cousin, a pediatric cardiologist, for her counsel.
“There’s one smart person in our family, and she counseled us and explained everything to our family so I didn’t have to,” Kimmel said.
Hayes shared what it was like to be a part of the emotional ordeal.
“It’s very surreal to suddenly see my family experiencing something that I deal with on a daily basis at work,” she said. “I am glad I was able to provide them with some counseling.”
“What drove Jimmy to make that decision – to say, ‘I am going to speak about this publicly?’” Burnett asked.
“One of the most important things was to recognize the actions of all the people that helped take care of Billy and helped saved his life,” Hayes replied. “I think Jimmy really wanted to show the appreciation.”
“Appreciation,” was not all Kimmel wanted to share at Monday night’s show. He offered his thoughts on access to health care, specifically coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.
“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 said.
Before the Affordable Care Act 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,” Kimmel 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.”
President Barack Obama praised Kimmel’s monologue and his plea for health care access.
“Well said, Jimmy,” Obama wrote on Twitter Tuesday afternoon. “That’s exactly why we fought so hard for the (Affordable Care Act), and why we need to protect it for kids like Billy. And congratulations!”
Burnett asked Hayes if she encountered patients prior to the ACA who were turned down from care because of lack of health insurance.
“Luckily in the critical care setting we would never deny a baby health care,” she responded. “So once you’re admitted to the hospital, you’re absolutely going to get the care you need. There’s things like emergency Medicaid that patients can obtain. The problem comes in the outpatient world when you are trying to get tests done and medications from pharmacies. So any baby with this form of heart disease would’ve absolutely gotten surgery and lifesaving care.”