Healthcare is an intensely personal issue to most Americans, for reasons that should be self-evident. Late night comedian Jimmy Kimmel is no exception, especially because his young son was born with a heart defect that requires multiple complicated and expensive surgeries to correct. As I wrote earlier, regardless of where one comes down on Kimmel's political activism, we should all be thankful that his child is in good condition. But because he's made a decision to get partisan on his comedy show, Kimmel should not get a pass on inaccurate or misleading arguments he repeats, unfair demagoguery in which he engages, or badly mistaken talking points he asserts on-air. We addressed a few of those points in our previous post, and the Washington Examiner's Tim Carney highlights another whopper here:
I love the part where Democratic Leader Jimmy Kimmel is 180 degrees opposite of the truth and gets away with it https://t.co/W6Tydgf810— Tim Carney (@TPCarney) September 21, 2017
I'm also unimpressed with his motive-impugning treatment of a man, Sen. Bill Cassidy, who has devoted much of his career as a doctor to volunteering and serving the medical needs of underprivileged communities -- including his heroic leadership and generosity after Hurricane Katrina. Kimmel may have (well-founded and unfounded) issues with Cassidy's bill, but the idea that this man is a malicious liar who's out to hurt people is grotesquely unfair. I'd wager that Bill Cassidy has done more to help more needy people in the healthcare realm than 99 percent of his critics -- Jimmy Kimmel very much included. Kimmel is welcome to use his national comedy platform to advance an agenda if he so chooses, but his family's healthcare crisis does not make him uniquely qualified to speak on behalf of all Americans on these difficult policy questions. Ben Shapiro's column today lambastes Kimmel's apparent ignorance on the profound shortcomings of single-payer systems and strips the funnyman of his "ultimate moral authority" card:
Kimmel's argument is absurd on every level. It’s absurd on a logical level: having a child with a heart condition doesn’t make you an expert on health care anymore than it makes you an expert on heart surgery. I should know – as I’ve said before (and only in response to Kimmel’s invocation of his own son), my daughter received open heart surgery at a year-and-a-half old at CHLA, at the hands of the same magnificent doctor Kimmel used. So by this logic, my opinion should be treated with precisely the same kind of moral weight Kimmel’s is. But I don’t think that the fact that my daughter had her heart fixed at CHLA is what grants me credibility to talk about health care. Reading health care law does. Studying health insurance schemes does. Speaking with my wife, who works inside that health care system as a doctor (including at CHLA from time to time) and thus knows the system from the inside, does.
Kimmel’s invocation of his son is also absurd on a moral level: Kimmel’s son didn’t lack health care. Neither would anyone else who needed surgery at CHLA. That’s because CHLA is a charity hospital with an endowment of hundreds of millions of dollars. Emergency heart surgery is not denied to babies based on ability to pay. The cost may just be extraordinary on the other end. Dr. Vaughn Starnes, the doctor who operated on both our children, isn’t in the business of denying dying babies surgery because their parents lack coverage. That would be true whether the parents picked up the check or the hospital did or the state did. Cost allocation is not the same thing as treatment availability. But emotional appeals do big business in politics. So Kimmel has been granted outsized authority on an issue upon which he admits he has little expertise. That’s foolish of the media, foolish of the American people, and foolish of Kimmel.
I think it's reasonable to grant that Kimmel's son's frightening ordeal spurred him to speak out publicly. His emotionalism is entirely relatable on a human level, and some of his concerns about Graham-Cassidy have merit. But his son's situation does not translate into correct policy views. If that's the intellectual calculus at play, Shapiro notes, then Shapiro's views on healthcare are just as valid as Kimmel's. And so are conservative writer Erick Erickson's:
I have a blood clot in my lungs and my wife has cancer. I'm sure the media will give me Kimmel level moral authority to oppose Obamacare.— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) September 20, 2017
What probably actually bothers me about Kimmel's one-sided preening is that he hasn't bothered to learn about the many Americans for whom Obamacare has inflicted great financial difficulty, medical challenges, and emotional anguish. I quoted him earlier as admitting to personally knowing zero people in the "Obamacare victims" class, which suggests that he runs in extremely privileged circles. It does not mean that those millions do not exist, or that their stories are unimportant. The stakes feel just as personal to them as they do to Kimmel, who seems to be cherry-picking the metrics by which he's judging public policy, ignoring or downplaying suffering that runs counter to his political preferences, and absolving some political figures of massive healthcare lies via selective outrage. If Kimmel fancies himself some sort of national conscience on healthcare, he owes it to himself and his viewers to talk with people like one of my best friends, whose Obamacare disaster unfolded after the shocking death of her young husband while she was pregnant:
You May Like Obamacare, But Don't Forget About The People It's Hurt https://t.co/ffynQqkQrg— Mollie (@MZHemingway) May 6, 2017
Mary Katharine is one of literally millions of people who've seen their plans canceled and premiums skyrocket under the existing law, in violation of endlessly-repeated false promises -- which were greeted with silence by the suddenly-outspoken Jimmy Kimmel. He admits he knows none of these individuals. Are their plights and struggles less meaningful than those experienced by Kimmel and his family (or by less affluent, similarly-situated people)? What about these thousands of veterans, who died awaiting care under a government-run system that Kimmel seems keen on expanding? I'll leave you with a reminder: Many of the 'experts' and industries being cited for their opposition to Graham-Cassidy are the same people who either lied on behalf of, badly misjudged, or knuckled under for Obamacare. Credibility matters.