I feel your pain. But please use your brain.
On Monday, late-night TV comedian Jimmy Kimmel delivered an emotional monologue about his newborn son. His baby was born with a congenital heart defect that required emergency open-heart surgery.
Millions of American parents, myself included, have walked in Kimmel’s shoes. We’ve experienced the terrifying roller coaster of emotions — panic, helplessness, anger, anxiety, relief, grief and unconditional love — that comes with raising chronically ill kids.
But Kimmel didn’t use his high-profile platform to educate the public about coping with rare diseases. Or to champion the nation’s best and brightest pediatric specialists and medical innovators. The Tinseltown celebrity turned his personal plight into a political weapon, which his liberal friends were all too happy to wield. Top Democrats tweeted their praise for Kimmel’s advocacy of expanded government health care regulations:
“Well said, Jimmy,” Barack Obama gushed.
“Thanks @jimmykimmel for sharing your story & reminding us what’s at stake w/health care,” Hillary Clinton effused.
The Huffington Post piled on: “Jimmy Kimmel’s Humanity Underscores Heartlessness Of GOP’s Approach To The Poor.”
I don’t need lectures from Huffington Post and Hollywood elites about having a heart. Neither do the rest of America’s parents, whatever their political affiliations, who know what it’s like to stay up night after endless night with suffering children, wondering whether they would ever be able to breathe normally again or see the light of the next day.
Kimmel doesn’t need more maudlin Twitter suck-uppery. He needs a healthy fact-check.
“Before 2014,” he claimed, “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, you were born with a pre-existing condition.”
This is false. If parents had health insurance, the child would have been covered under the parents’ policy whether or not the child had a health problem.
Kimmel continued: “And if your parents didn’t have medical insurance, you might not live long enough to even get denied because of a pre-existing condition.”
The term “pre-existing condition” is used to describe uninsured chronically ill people who apply for insurance coverage, not for a child in need of immediate care. Moreover, in the U.S., virtually all hospitals are legally obligated to provide emergency treatment to every patient who urgently requires emergency medical care regardless of the patient’s insurance status. This would include a newborn with an urgent heart condition. This requirement does not apply only to patients who enter an emergency room. It applies to all patients who set food on a hospital’s property.
Kimmel then dramatically asserted: “If your baby is going to die, and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make.”
I repeat: It does not matter if you are rich are poor or if you are uninsured. If your baby is in the hospital, he or she will receive emergency care no matter what.
“This isn’t football,” Kimmel implored. “There are no teams. We are the team, it’s the United States. Don’t let their partisan squabbles divide us on something every decent person wants.”
Kimmel implies that opposition to Obamacare-style insurance mandates is both un-American and indecent. Had he been less hysterical, he would have acknowledged that different health care systems have pros and cons — and decent Americans can have legitimate differences of opinion on such matters.
In the land of make-believe, it would be wonderful if everyone had free access to the same high-quality care Kimmel and his family did at Cedars-Sinai and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
In the real world, Obamacare plans have severely curtailed the number of doctors and hospitals that customers can use. Command-and-control regulations on guaranteed issue, community rating and pre-existing conditions favored by Kimmel and company are driving up costs for everyone. Limited access to specialists and long waits have become the increasing norm — just like that other model of government-run health care, the Veterans Affairs system, where the despicable practice of “death by queuing” spiked under Obama.
Moving toward a nationalized health system might play well with an emotion-driven late-night comedy audience. But sober observers know it would mean undermining America’s superior access to cutting-edge diagnosis, innovative treatment, top specialists and surgeons, technology, and drugs.
Compassion without clear thinking is just a waste of Kleenex.