With the US in the throes of another contentious debate over healthcare, comedian Jimmy Kimmel used his late-night TV stage to put a very personal spin on an issue that is a matter of life and death for millions of Americans.
On yesterday’s Jimmy Kimmel Live!, the host fought back tears to reveal that his infant son was born with a serious heart condition that required immediate surgery. Kimmel’s story had a happy ending: his son, Billy, survived surgery and should go on to lead a normal life.
But before the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, was implemented a few years ago, many Americans with pre-existing conditions struggled to receive health insurance.
“If you were born with congenital heart disease like my son was, there was a good chance you’d never be able to get health insurance because you had a pre-existing condition,” Kimmel explained. “If your parents didn’t have medical insurance, you might not live long enough to even get denied because of a pre-existing condition.”
“If your baby is going to die, and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make,” Kimmel added, his voice quivering.
Kimmel applauded Congress for rejecting Trump’s proposed cuts to the National Institutes of Health, the government agency responsible for health research across a variety of fields. Congress actually increased NIH funding by $2 billion.
US president Donald Trump claims that the still-evolving latest version of his healthcare bill will still cover pre-existing conditions, though experts say it would give states the option to allow insurers to charge sick Americans much higher, potentially unaffordable premiums. Another vote on healthcare is set soon after the first attempt to pass it failed spectacularly without even a vote.
Kimmel, who generally avoids getting political on his show, pleaded with decision makers to take a compassionate approach to healthcare: “No parent should ever have to decide if they can afford to save their child’s life,” he said. “We need to make sure that the people who are supposed to represent us, the people meeting about this right now in Washington, understand that very clearly.”