Those of us in the world of column-writing and policy wonkery ought to be humbled: It often takes a celebrity, preferably a comedian, to break through with an argument that transforms public understanding.
In particularly successful cases, the celebrity demolishes conventions and blurts out a deep truth that only occasionally makes it into the day-to-day arguments and journalistic accounts.
So here’s hoping that Jimmy Kimmel wins some humanitarian awards for his thirteen-minute monologue about the recent birth of his son, Billy. He described how emergency heart surgery days after Billy was born saved his child’s very new life.
Kimmel used his personal experience to ask the philosophical questions that need to animate every debate over whether health care is a right that ought to be underwritten by government: Why should being born with any sort of defect raise your insurance costs all your life? Why should the babies of well-off people, including comedians, have a better shot at surviving than newborns whose parents lack the money to buy health insurance? More generally, why should anyone be denied coverage?
Here is the policy core of Kimmel’s monologue that those who advocate health care for all might consider memorizing like a catechism answer, a Torah portion or a favorite verse of scripture or poetry:
Before 2014, 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. You were born with a pre-existing condition, 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.
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 now, whether you’re a Republican or Democrat, or something else, we all agree on that, right? I mean, we do. Whatever your party, whatever you believe, whoever you support, we need to make sure that the people who are supposed to represent us—people who are meeting about this right now in Washington—understand that very clearly.