By now you have probably all seen the Jimmy Kimmel monologue about his newborn son born with Tetralogy of Fallot, and the successful lifesaving surgery that he received. In a 13-minute stretch, he passionately, movingly detailed his son’s condition, and the excellent care that has put the baby on the road to a normal, healthy life. Starting at 10:26 into the piece, he turns a human-interest story into politics. He starts by criticizing the Trump administration for trying to cut the NIH budget, and praising his congressman for getting $2 billion more (big applause), claiming that “more than 40% of those impacted by those cuts are children.” Then he went full-on ObamaCare ignorant, saying that until a few years ago millions of us had no access to health insurance, and then linked the issue to his son. His argument is that a kid like his son would have had a pre-existing condition that, prior to the ACA, would have prevented him from getting insurance. Kimmel does not know about EMTALA laws, and cannot grasp that all hospitals, engage heavily in cost shifting to take care of these sorts of cases. He does not grasp that access has been getting worse, and that the cost of having insurance is crushing far more families than those with catastrophic conditions. Kimmel informs us that, “if your baby is going to die and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make.” And it rarely, if ever, does. NICU’s across the nation are full of babies born to far worse circumstances than Kimmel’s. His implication that an NIH budget cut will automatically threaten children is ridiculous, and it is demagoguery.
Does he have a point? Maybe, but he doesn’t seem to think things through to the next step. In a nation with $20T in debt, sure, why not throw a couple billion more at the NIH? Jimmy Kimmel doesn’t have to make the hard call. When ObamaCare ratcheted up the mandates for essential benefits, and refused to allow insurance to deny on the basis of pre-existing conditions, all it did was raise the premiums for those already paying the freight. It is no defense of corrupt Big Insurance to again point out that the proxy compassion of the ACA gave them a huge windfall rationalization.
Kimmel asks, “Whether you’re a Republican, or Democrat, or something else, we all agree on that, right?” then adds, “Don’t let their partisan squabbles divide us on something every decent person wants.” It is patronizing to call principled opposition to government meddling in health care “partisan”, as though embracing the current mess is somehow non-partisan. If there are not reforms, then the truly heroic cases of newborns who receive lifesaving surgery will not overshadow the tens of millions who cannot afford basic care, and if somehow insured, cannot find access to care. The applause Kimmel gets is an indication of good will, but not of serious thought. People cannot afford deductibles and premiums under a system he in his monologue praises.
Kimmel: “No parent should ever have to decide if they can afford to save their child’s life.” He does not want parents bankrupted over a catastrophic congenital abnormality, but he will make a non sequitur cause célèbre for a system creating slower bankruptcy for millions of households over expensive daily – if less noteworthy – care. Emotion and open-ended government promises got us into this mess. Thought, reason, and hard choices are all that can reform health care, but these will find no applause from Kimmel’s audience.