Late-night host Jimmy Kimmel delivered an impassioned monologue on Monday night detailing his newborn son’s recent open-heart surgery.
The heart-string-pulling speech, during which Kimmel teared up, detailed the harrowing experience for Kimmel and his family. It also presented a compelling, personal case for why it has been so difficult for Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the law better known as Obamacare.
Kimmel, in the monologue, said his son’s story also had a lot to do with recent changes to the US healthcare system enacted by the Affordable Care Act.
Prior to the ACA, people could be denied insurance by insurers due to a litany of preexisting conditions. This included everything from heart conditions (like in the case of Kimmel’s son), to asthma, to working in a mine.
“Before 2014, if you were born with a congenital heart condition like my son was, there was a good chance you would never be able to get health insurance because you had a preexisting condition, you were born with a preexisting condition,” Kimmel said. “If your parents didn’t have health insurance, you may not even live long enough to get denied insurance due to a preexisting condition.”
According to Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health policy think tank, 27% of Americans — just over 52 million people — have a preexisting condition that could have denied them health insurance prior to Obamacare’s implementation. And while the new GOP bill to repeal and replace the ACA, called the American Health Care Act, has nominal protections for people with preexisting conditions, recent changes have undermined those protections.
An amendment added to the AHCA last week would allow states to apply for a waiver for an exemption from some of the ACA’s protections if they show they can bring down costs. Among those protections is a provision that insurers cannot charge sick people more than healthier people in a given area.
Republicans have argued that Obamacare is already unaffordable for people with preexisting conditions. But experts say those costs would likely only rise if states were able to attain such waivers. Insurers could increase costs for those with preexisting conditions. In the worst-case scenario these people could be priced out of the market, according to health policy experts.
People with preexisting conditions could see their premiums skyrocket while healthy people would no longer have to subsidise sicker Americans. Overall costs could decline, but sicker people would likely get the short end of the stick.
And the problem for Republicans is that these protections are incredibly popular, as Kimmel suggested.
“If your baby is going to die, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make,” Kimmel said. “I think that’s something that whether you’re a Republican, or a Democrat, or something else, we can all agree on.”
Roughly 70% of Americans support the preexisting-conditions provision. A recent ABC News/ Washington Post poll found that only 26% of people want the issue left up to states.
In addition to the preexisting-conditions clause, Kimmel also hinted at other benefits of the ACA, specifically the end of lifetime limits. Prior to the ACA, insurance companies could place a cap on the amount of benefits that a person received over their lifetime. Once the cap was overrun, the financial burden shifted heavily onto the patient and his or her family.
“No parent should have to decide if they can afford to save their child’s life. It just shouldn’t happen. Not here,” Kimmel said.
As Sarah Kliff at Vox has written, for many infant patients born with health problems, lifetime limits could mean the end of benefits at an incredibly young age, causing serious financial strain early in life. The Affordable Care Act removed those caps. The new GOP bill preserves them, but it also makes it harder to say that they are repealing Obamacare when they are also keeping this provision in place.
Overall, the Affordable Care Act has hit its highest level of popularity since the passage of the law. A recent Gallup survey showed 55% approval for Obamacare, the first time the bill had garnered a majority of Americans’ support in the Gallup poll.
To sum up: Republicans have to convince their base that they are delivering on their seven-year promise to repeal Obamacare, while protecting some of its more popular elements, while also getting enough lawmakers on board to pass a replacement law.
Kimmel finished his emotional appeal by asking congressional lawmakers to protect these clauses of the ACA instead of altering them in the American Health Care Act.
“we need to make sure that the people that are supposed to represent us, the people meeting about this right now in Washington, understand that very clearly,” Kimmel said. “Let’s stop with the nonsense, this isn’t football 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.”
Watch Kimmel’s monologue below:
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