Monday provided two stark, contrasting headlines.
The first came from late night host Jimmy Kimmel. He explained to his audience, in heartbreaking fashion, that his son had been diagnosed shortly after birth with tetralogy of Fallot and pulmonary atresia, a dangerous heart condition requiring immediate surgery, which was successful. He then added, “You know, before 2014 [and Obamacare], if you were born with a congenital heart disease like my son was, there was a good chance you wouldn’t be able to get health insurance because you had 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 that whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat or something else, we all agree on that, right?”
The second headline came courtesy of Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), who explained to CNN’s Jake Tapper, “My understanding is that [Trumpcare] will allow insurance companies to require people who have higher health care costs to contribute more to the insurance pool that helps offset all these costs, thereby reducing the cost to those people who lead good lives, they’re healthy, you know, they are doing the things to keep their bodies healthy. And right now, those are the people who have done things the right way that are seeing their costs skyrocketing.”
The Left has leapt on Brooks’ comments to suggest that Republicans believe being sick is some sort of sin, and that only those who are healthy “lead good lives.” This is the moral dichotomy the Left believes exists in health care: the dichotomy between Kimmel-esque compassion, and Brooks-ian brutality.
That’s not actually what’s going on.
In 2014, my beautiful daughter was born. She was healthy and wonderful, bright and bubbly. Then, a few months after her first birthday, she threw up, and fainted when she did. We had no idea what was going on, so we brought her to the ER. They ran some tests, including an EKG, pronounced her fine, and sent her home. For follow-up, they had us visit a cardiologist. He saw something suspicious on her EKG, did an ultrasound, and found a hole in her heart. In August 2015, she had open-heart surgery. Thank God, the surgeon was incredible, the hospital wonderful, and she’s absolutely fine; she shouldn’t need another surgery. In fact, she was operated on at the same facility as Kimmel's son, and by the same surgeon.
All of which is to say that I understand exactly what Kimmel went through. I watched my baby sedated for an operation, crying for her mommy, and I thought about how lucky we were that we were covered by our health insurance. I agree with Kimmel that poverty should not be a barrier to care, particularly for children. So do all sentient human beings.
But Kimmel was smart enough to purchase health insurance before his baby’s birth. His son didn’t have to buy his own health insurance; his pre-existing condition was covered by his parents’ health insurance. I know because that was true for my daughter. It takes responsibility to cover your family.
That’s likely what Brooks meant to say, although he expressed it in the dumbest possible way: not that good people are healthy people, but that responsible people have an obligation to buy insurance while they are healthy, so that when they get sick, they are covered, rather than waiting until they are sick to buy insurance, which merely passes the cost of their care onto someone else. Financial planning and insuring your health is a matter of morality in many cases: ignoring buying insurance until you’re sick, even if you have the capacity to do so, means avoiding your responsibility.
None of this means we shouldn’t have social support for those who fall through the cracks — who lose their jobs during a pregnancy, for example. That’s what communities and churches and hospital charities are for, as a start. Obamacare doesn’t solve these problems, in any case — insurance companies have been opting out of the Obamacare scheme precisely because it bankrupts them, and Medicaid coverage has been shown to have little or no impact on life expectancy. That's why more options in health care decreases cost and makes health care more affordable to those who are poorer.
Brooks’ comments were idiotic, but the Left wants to assume they were malicious because that’s the narrative. It shouldn’t be. We all want those in need to get coverage. The best way to increase that coverage is to begin by encouraging those who are healthy to buy insurance now — to be responsible human beings — so that when the eventuality of sickness materializes, they’re not left without care, turning to others for help.