How Jimmy Kimmel’s Emotional Plea Could Influence Healthcare Debate

Jimmy Kimmel Live
Courtesy of ABC

After Jimmy Kimmel choked up during his monologue as he described his newborn son’s heart surgery, he made a plea for access to affordable health care.

“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.”

The clip quickly spread online on Monday night and into Tuesday, and it may be just the type of moment that has an impact on the current healthcare debate, as House Republicans try to amass the votes for their latest version of a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.

Former President Barack Obama even weighed in on Twitter, writing “Well said, Jimmy. That’s exactly why we fought so hard for the ACA, and why we need to protect it for kids like Billy. And congratulations!”

“Watch & prepare to tear up. Thanks Jimmy Kimmel for sharing your story & reminding us what’s at stake w/health care,” Hillary Clinton tweeted.

Kimmel paused from his normal monologue jokes to give a serious recounting of his son’s surgery — an unusually personal moment for the ABC late-night host. What was also unique was that he waded into the current political debate in Washington, telling his audience that before Obamacare, “if you were born with congenital heart disease, like my son was, there was a good chance you would never be able to get health insurance because you had a pre-existing condition.”

The current Obamacare replacement legislation would, in the eyes of critics, weaken protections for those with pre-existing conditions, according to PolitiFact. Under the revised Obamacare replacement legislation, insurers couldn’t deny coverage to those who are or who have been sick, but states could get waivers that would allow them to charge more based on a person’s health history. Defenders of the current legislation point out that it also requires that states who do take the waiver to also set up high-risk pools to cover those with pre-existing conditions, but there are still doubts over just how effective those pools are.

In his monologue, Kimmel seemed well aware of a nuances of the legislation.

“If your baby is going to die and doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make,” he said, while adding that such a concept should not be partisan and enjoys wide agreement among Republicans and Democrats.

Support for Obamacare, and its ban on insurers discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions, has been on the rise since the start of the year. And before Kimmel’s monologue, there already were doubts that the House bill would be able to garner enough support for passage. But it could add to the chorus of voices that have made moderate Republicans a bit jittery about supporting the legislation. On Tuesday, Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), the former chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said that he would vote “no.”

Ethan Rome, co-director at the advocacy group Health Care for America Now, said, “I don’t come from a school that thinks politicians are persuaded by Jimmy Kimmel. I am from a school that thinks they will be moved by his personal and powerful story, and that it speaks to and for the vast majority of Americans.”

There already is some precedent for comedians having an impact on healthcare debates — and perhaps even marking a turning point. In 2014, as the Obama White House was struggling with a faulty website and other bad headlines over the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, it got a boost after President Obama appeared in a Funny or Die video, Zach Galifianakis’ faux talk show “Between Two Ferns.” It helped spur sign ups to the insurance exchanges — a critical component to getting the healthcare law off the ground.

Martin Kaplan, director of the Norman Lear Center at USC and principal investigator for Hollywood, Health and Society, said that he thinks the Kimmel video will have an influence.

“Storytelling is an especially powerful way to get our attention and to communicate a message, particularly when listeners can empathize with the people and the situations that a story is about,” he said via e-mail. “That’s why the most influential moments from recent congressional town halls were personal testimony from people whose lives were dramatically changed for the better by Obamacare, and would be jeopardized by its repeal. It’s also why moments when people talked about their own opioid addiction were so moving and memorable during the presidential campaign.”

He added, “The only pushback to Jimmy Kimmel’s story that I’ve come across so far is to dispute the negative consequences of isolating people with pre-existing conditions in state-funded high risk pools. Even if that aspect of the repeal-and-replace plan were benign — and it’s not — in the context of a powerful narrative, it’s just policy gobbledygook.”

Now, as then, it is difficult to measure just what impact one moment can have on such a hard-fought issue, but it can certainly help steer the debate and how it is defined.

“Healthcare is not a political issue, it is a personal issue for people,” Rome said. “They don’t see it through a lens of partisan politics. They see it through the lens of how it affects their lives and the lives of their friends. I don’t think stars make or break political debates, but what is powerful about Jimmy Kimmel is his is a very challenging, but common story that was given uncommon attention because of who he is and what he does.”

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  1. W. Parker says:

    Even tho Kimmel’s tasteless rant about his baby being saved because he’s a rich clueless insincere morally bankrupt leftist who’ll gladly use his baby as a prop, everything he said is not only totally false and misleading, but a slap in the face to the awesome caregivers by insinuating that they would’ve let his baby for if he was poor. The only way that would’ve happened is if Planned Parenthood was in charge of hospital.

  2. Sharon says:

    I used to like you when you were a comedian and watched you faithfully, but that, you are no longer and I’ve ceased watching you unless I haven’t reached the channel changer in time. You are also not a politician….just an idiot that has the opportunity to use a borrowed platform to express your ignorant opinion that also attempts to influence people. At what point did you decide you were so wise in what direction our country needs to proceed? And your degree is in what subject? Anyone that has an opinion other than yours or your ugly wife’s who writes the crap that you spew out (should have stayed with Silverman…) you present as them being less than knowledgeable than The self proclaimed Mighty Jimmy Kimmel! You also have a filthy mouthed aunt that you allow to make money for her low life family by appearing on “your” show. How proud you appear to be allow the aged potty mouth to vomit obscenities in front of your children as well as other’s children. You aren’t speaking for Americans, your family is well taken care of monetarily, not to mention healthcare. So don’t stand up and ridicule other’s family (Trumps for example or other’s whose opinion differs from yours) and then act as if you are crying because of your brood’s misfortune. You have no problem making fun of a 10 year child but you want the world to mourn for your kid. You are a hypocrite and a fool. You also have gotten carried away with what you think your role in society and politics is. Spend your time more wisely and find new monologue writers to entertain the television audience or perhaps you could retire from the entertainment industry and run for a political office and let us all have a big laugh!!!!!

  3. Bob Kutz says:

    Does it concern Variety at all that Kimmel’s statements were false?

    Pre-existing condition exclusions never ever applied to a newborn infant.

    It only pertains to a new coverage application.

    Further, the hospital cannot refuse treatment for a newborn, without consideration of remuneration or the status of the parent(s). Especially not lifesaving treatment.


    And this was true prior to the ACA.

    How come Variety doesn’t care when liberals lie?

    • steven says:

      You have no idea what you are talking about. Prior to the ACA, babies WERE denied coverage when born with birth defects. Here, I’ll get you started: newborn-with-birth-defect-denied-coverage/

      • Sam says:

        Medical costs are controlled by the AMA. Hospital costs are also controlled. Take a look at the management staff/CEO obscene salaries.
        THIS is what the govn. needs to cure not the insurance companies.
        Control the costs and the insurance will follow; minus their profit and scary management pyramid scheme scam.

      • steven says:

        No, not all hospitals have charity programs. That’s a dangerous assumption. Take Ohio as an example. According to the CEO of the Ohio Hospital Association, this is the current state of hospitals in Ohio:

        “One in 4 Ohio hospitals is in what I would consider very precarious economic circumstances. Thirty-six of our hospitals are operating in negative margins. An additional 14 have margins under 2 percent. So we looked at the impact of Medicaid expansion as being about a 3 percent positive for Ohio hospitals. So with those kinds of numbers, we are quite concerned that fully 25 percent of our hospitals in Ohio would be at risk of closure under a proposal like this (Trumpcare).”

      • Sam says:

        You’re an idiot you did not read the article.
        The FAMILY did not have coverage in which case the former comment was correct, the baby would be covered and stated so in the article you posted.
        This family had ONLY their two children covered as individuals and not the parents.
        Every hospital has charity programs.

  4. Jim says:

    Truth be known when measuring Jimmy’s comments on Healthcare supportive of the ACA,……Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit institution that provides pediatric health care and helps our patients more than 528,000 times each year in a setting designed just for their needs. Our history began in 1901 in a small house on the corner of Alpine and Castelar Streets (now Hill St. in Chinatown) and today our medical experts offer more than 350 pediatric specialty programs and services to meet the needs of our patients.

    CHLA is a provider of more than $232.6 million in community benefits annually to children and families. As the first and largest pediatric hospital in Southern California, CHLA relies on the generosity of philanthropists in the community to support compassionate patient care, leading-edge education of the caregivers of tomorrow and innovative research efforts that impact children at our hospital and around the world.

    Thank Goodness for Corporate Profits, Philanthropy and Foundations who help make Jimmy’s Hospital of Choice possible!!!!!!!

  5. Itza Seakrit says:

    You’re kidding, right?
    Jimmy who?
    Being known in Hellywood doesn’t mean a thing to people who live in the real world.
    Just a bunch of pampered, pompous, posing, self-worshipping cookie-cutter hypocrites seeking attention, fantasizing about relevance.
    Nobody cares
    You don’t matter
    BTW: the ACA was a farce and a fraud. It was unsustainable, designed to; control, impoverish, impose, and, ultimately, collapse. Scumbama illegally approriated funds assigned elsewhere to fake numbers, prolong the lie.
    Any one with half a clue knows you don’t improve healthcare by adding 1000+ IRS employees, or by co-conspiring with the insurance companies. The avaricious insurance companies need to be regulated, not enabled.

    • Bob WOODWARd says:

      Jimmy had 2.2 million watching him and you will have about 5 read your misguided and laughable comment. The real question is who cares what you say. No one. You guys are laughable and sad all rolled up into a mess of crying years. By the way..not gonna vote on repeal before Friday break. Meaning dead again. Hahaha

  6. Dolores Enriquez says:

    I just heard on the news the remark J. Welsh made about not his problem. How could he be so heartless.but then again he won’t even take care of his own.

  7. Mauricia Kile says:

    This date 40 years ago a hole in my heart was repaired! I was 30 years old with an almost 4 year old son and a 4 months old baby girl. I was born with this problem which was not discovered until I was 28! Sure I had to take breaks when running with my siblings or others, but I was used to it it was all I knew. I agree ACA should be available to all, at the time of my surgery it was not available of course. But we didn’t have to pay for any of it! Welfare has been around a long time. I am so grateful your baby got the help he needed. May he stay blessed forever.

  8. Darrell J DeShaw says:

    explain to me how this is even relevant in Arizona? I cant afford Obamacare. Its a joke!! It was all fine until Obamacare took over. The people that lie about their income get free Medicare from the state. That is wayyyyyy better than Obamacare insurance and its free…. oh i pay for that not you Mr ex president. So Mr Ex president, great you fought hard and by that you forced your way on the people (exec order). Thank you for forcing me to pay for something I cant afford. I wish I had another opportunity to not vote for you again. You didnt fix anything. You are providing free insurance to people that didnt want to pay for it. Just please explain how you keep defending it and AZ insurance is in shambles. I really wish I had a chance to say this to you in person. Errrrr!!!

    • Jinxi Richow-Fromholtz says:

      While I support your right to your rant against Obama, I am relieved I don’t have to listen to your nonsense in person.

      BOTH my parents and my wife’s parents have much better and much cheaper coverage now than they did before Obamacare existed.

      Sounds to me like you didn’t do your homework.

      • Stephen says:

        YOU didn’t do your homework.
        Other people are now forced to pay higher x3 insurance costs.
        To cover something that medicaid already covers as enriching insurance companies.
        The problem is medical COSTS.
        Controlled by the AMA industry.

    • Mortimer Sanderson says:

      I commend you for telling us the truth of what Obamacare has done. Higher costs for working people. Insurance companies are the ones who have profited.
      The truth is, hospitals everywhere do all they can to save infants in such a state as Kimmel’s, regardless of the parents’ ability to pay. The only question is who ultimately pays, the wealthy, corporations, or the working people. Obama has put all the burden on working people. Reverse socialism.

  9. Wtr says:

    @West: your ignorance is astounding. Prior to Obamacare, when the uninsured needed acute medical care & had no means to pay for it, who do you think paid for their care? Do you think that hospitals simply absorbed those costs somehow? No, of course not. Those with insurance paid for their care, through higher medical costs, higher insurance premiums, & increased federal & state spending (taxes). It’s not as though they got free medical care & that was that. Someone has to pay for it.

    Additionally, the uninsured used hospitals as their primary care clinic, overwhelming emergency departments when they should be focusing on critical care. Many of the uninsured have medical conditions that can be adequately managed with medications & follow up care via primary care clinics, but could not get this type of care because they had no insurance. Consequently, they waited until their condition deteriorated & then went to the ED, where they then required more urgent & expensive care – at our expense. How is this system superior to the system put in place by the ACA? Why do you think hospitals want to keep the ACA in place? Do you think that hospitals in more rural settings can cover their costs when they are required to provide care to the uninsured?

    Look at the studies that have been done in Ohio, for example, where they project that 25% of hospitals will close if Trumpcare is enacted. Jimmy Kimmel is correct – we need to stop thinking only of ourselves. There are millions of people who will lose their health care insurance if Trumpcare is passed. People should not have to decide between their health or their living costs when faced with health issues. We are better than this.

    • Bob Kutz says:

      So . . . . You agree that the indigent were not refused care, making Kimmel’s statements false, and completely ignore his miscomprehension of the pre-existing condition exclusion (which never ever, not one time, applied to a new-born infant) and yet support his statements?

      You are a special kind of liberal, aren’t you?

  10. West says:

    Did Jimmy mention when the doctors walked in and said, “If you can’t pay, we are going to let your kid die”?

    That would have been a GREAT story/Narrative. Still BS, but you know, whatever gets the rubes worked up.

    So the kid is less than a week old, and is already being pimped out by his dad for his favorite political agenda. Bravo.

    • John Rizzo says:

      Hi West! I think it all comes down to this: Are you interested in your fellow brother/sister, or do you think life is all about yourself. I can hint at the answer to this philosophical dilemna: “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me.” Help yourself to that.

      • These people only care about themselves and no one else. They are the poster children of greed and selfishness. They want to “Make America Great Again” while the people they see to be “beneath them” suffer and die. They would rather see the money they already pay in taxes be spent to build wall shaped monument to racism, than ensure that all their countrymen have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They think life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness should only be privileges given to those who are either unborn, or wealthy enough to afford such “luxuries”. No one else. They are Anti-American. They are Social Darwinists in the vein of predominant 20th century fascists, and turn of the century tycoons who had no remorse about killing the very (striking( workers, without whom their wealth would not be. They are thieves, hoarders, and miserable individuals who I pray one day will develop a heart of their own, but I fear they won’t.

      • Bob Kutz says:

        So . . are you acknowledging that Kimmel’s statements were completely false, even as you chastise someone for the crime of not caring, with absolutely not a single shred of evidence to prove that to be the case?


        Probably need to look in the mirror and repeat your statement there.

        What Kimmel said was not true. Pre-existing conditions exclusions never ever applied to newborn infants and no hospital can deny lifesaving care to an infant, regardless of the parents coverage or status. Period.

        I think, before you castigate others for made up assertions, you should take a hard look at yourself and your level of gullibility before the liberal mantra.

    • Steve says:


      • steven says:

        Bob, perhaps you should do a little more research before posting.

        “Newborn with Birth Defect Denied Coverage”

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