On Monday, late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel opened his show with a moving and powerful monologue about the birth of his second child in April, and how he very nearly lost him due to a congenital heart defect that required surgery just days after his son was born. Kimmel's 13-minute opening monologue not only described the ordeal he and his family went through, but he also made an impassioned plea for affordable health care access for all. On social media, some have fired back at Kimmel, saying that even without insurance, he could afford any surgery for his son. But Jimmy Kimmel's income doesn't make his health care argument less valid.
Critics of Kimmel using his entertainment platform to promote a political issue have pointed their fingers at Kimmel's hefty network paychecks. In 2016, Forbes ranked Kimmel as the fourth highest paid late night TV host, making $12 million from Jimmy Kimmel Live! from June 2015 to June 2016. Kimmel's net worth is in the range of $25 to $35 million, depending on which celebrity net worth website you consult. But none of that matters, despite what his detractors have said on social media Tuesday.
Harping on Kimmel for having the audacity to be wealthy and complain about the cost of health care completely misses the point of anything he had to say. Kimmel understands what happened to his son could — and does — happen to thousands of babies born with pre-existing conditions every year. Except many of these parents don't have incomes that come anywhere close to what Kimmel makes — but are still on the hook for insurance premiums, deductibles, co-pays, and prescription costs.
"No parent should ever have to decide if they can afford to save their child’s life," Kimmel said on Monday — and he's right.
Kimmel was also right about the fact that affordable health care shouldn't be a bipartisan issue. "This isn’t football. There are no teams. We are the team," Kimmel said on Monday. "It’s the United States. Don’t let their partisan squabbles divide us on something every decent person wants." But this isn't even about wants, because health care is a human right. That it is 2017 and a single surgery can still bankrupt a family — even with health insurance — is a travesty. But this isn't just about bank accounts and household income, either. This is a literal matter of life and death.
A January 2017 study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found a disturbing relationship between birth defects, infant mortality, and insurance coverage. Babies born with birth defects — just like Kimmel's son — were more likely to die from their birth defects if their births were covered by Medicaid than their peers whose births were covered by private insurance. Now, when you factor in that the GOP wants to slash Medicaid with its ACA replacement plan, it becomes apparent that a loss in access to affordable care has life-threatening consequences.
Yes, Jimmy Kimmel makes a pretty decent chunk of change — that we should all be so lucky. But the fact is, we're not. And instead of tearing the man down for being lucky enough to afford his son's health care, we should be taking a hard look at just how f*cked up the American health care system is and how the current plan to make it better by repealing the ACA is only going to make the whole system worse.