On Monday, Jimmy Kimmel, host of the late-night ABC talk show “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” delivered a stirring monologue to open his show. With tears in his eyes, the host revealed that his wife had recently given birth to a beautiful baby boy.
But soon after, a nurse realized there was something wrong.
“Billy was born with heart disease,” Kimmel said. “At just three days old, he would need open heart surgery.”
The surgery was successful, though horrifying. “It was the longest three hours of my life,” Kimmel said. The child will require multiple other procedures in his early life, as well.
But this was more than a personal moment for Kimmel, who took the time to defend other parents who might find themselves in a familiar situation someday, without the cushion of TV money.
“Before 2014, 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,” he said. “And if your parents didn’t have medical insurance, you might not even live long [enough] to even get denied because of a pre-existing condition.”
Choking back tears, he continued, “If your baby is going to die, and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make. I think that’s something that, whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat or something else, we all agree on that, right?”
Sadly, the answer is no.
Just hours before the monologue aired, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) told CNN’s Jake Tapper that sick people should pay more for health insurance ― an opinion reflected in the newest proposed version of a Republican health care bill.
Brooks, who is one of the more than 30 congresspeople who make up the so-called Freedom Caucus, a far-right contingent within the House of Representatives, made his comments in response to a claim by President Donald Trump. Trump stated Monday that he wanted to carry over Obamacare policies that protect people with pre-existing conditions.
But the newest version of the bill wouldn’t do that, a fact Brooks emphasized.
“My understanding is that it will allow insurance companies to require people who have higher health care costs to contribute more to the insurance pool,” he said, “thereby reducing the cost to those people who lead good lives.”
Of these people who live “good lives,” he then added, “They’re healthy, they have done the things to keep their bodies healthy, and right now those are the people who have done things the right way and are seeing their costs skyrocket.”
The comments led to an anger as intense as it was predictable. After all, a recent poll found that 70 percent of Americans believe people with pre-existing conditions ― or, as Brooks calls them, “people who have higher health care costs” ― should not have to pay higher premiums, as Brooks wants them to.
Brooks added that Americans should “help” people who have pre-existing conditions “through no fault of their own,” the kind of of vague line that has become commonplace in various corners of the Republican establishment ― and that has been etched into the party’s newest health care proposal ― allowing for the facade of sympathy without the policy minutia to back it up.
HuffPost’s Jonathan Cohn explained as much late last month:
The measure’s supporters insist that their proposal would not harm people with serious medical problems. In fact, a clause states explicitly: “Nothing in this Act shall be construed as permitting health insurance issuers to limit access to health coverage for individuals with preexisting conditions.”
But that is exactly what it would do.
Under the new proposal, insurers still couldn’t reject people who have pre-existing conditions. But states could allow insurers to charge those people higher premiums ― and to sell policies without Obamacare’s essential benefits.
Insurance markets are traditionally supposed to spread costs across large groups of people, so vulnerable people can receive help when they need it without the burden of financially devastating medical bills.
But before Obamacare, the U.S. health care system didn’t do that for people who couldn’t get coverage through a large employer. People buying on their own were at the mercy of insurers, who could charge them more, withhold benefits, or deny them coverage outright due to pre-existing conditions. And that could happen once again if the Republican bill were to become law.
Under that proposal, people without pre-existing conditions buying coverage on their own would end up paying less, on the whole. But people with asthma or diabetes could see their premiums double, according to an analysis out of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress.
Someone with, say, metastatic cancer could end up paying more than $100,000 in premiums every year ― prices that could easily cripple almost any family’s finances.
On Monday night, Kimmel ended his monologue with a plea to consider the impossible choices many American families have faced.
“No parent should ever have to decide if they can afford to save their child’s life,” he said. “It just shouldn’t happen. Not here.”
Whether or not it should happen, it has in the past ― and it could once again.