On Wednesday, Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro, who also had to go through the heartbreak of watching his small child undergo open-heart surgery, took issue with Jimmy Kimmel’s monologue on Monday in which Kimmel cited his son’s open-heart surgery as a means of championing Obamacare.
After telling the story of his infant son’s birth, subsequent diagnosis of heart trouble and the surgery that immediately followed at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, Kimmel launched into this:
I want to say one other thing. President Trump, last month, proposed a $6 billion cut in funding to the NIH. And thank God our Congressmen made a deal last night to not go along with that. They actually increased funding by $2 billion, and I applaud them for doing that. Because more than 40% of the people who would have been affected by those cuts at the National Institute of Health are children, and it would have a major impact on a lot of great places, including Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. Which is so unbelievably sad to me.
We were brought up to believe that we live in the greatest country in the world, but until a few years ago, millions and millions of us had no access to healthcare at all.
Before 2014, if you were born with congenital heart disease like my son was, there was a good chance you’d 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 that whether you’re a Republican or a 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, the people who are meeting about this right now in Washington, understand that very clearly. Let’s stop with the nonsense. This isn’t football. There are no teams. We are the team. It’s the United States. Don’t let their partisan squabbles divide us on something every decent person wants. We need to take care of each other. I saw a lot of families there and no parent should ever have to decide if they can afford to save their child’s life. It just shouldn’t happen. Not here. So. Anyway. Thank you for listening. I promise I’m not going to cry for the rest of the show.
On his podcast, Shapiro played the relevant excerpts from Kimmel’s monologue. Then he responded:
I have some experiences here and I want to talk about them. I don’t really talk about this a lot, because I don’t really like to make my family life an issue on this show and in politics generally. A couple of years ago, this would have been mid of 2015, (my daughter was born in January 2014), mid 2015, July 2015, my daughter, who is a beautiful little girl, she has the flu, and she starts throwing up, and when she’s throwing up, she’s fainting. And we don’t know why. And so we take her into – it’s very scary, she’s keeling over, literally fainting dead away while she’s throwing up. It turns out that it was breath holding, but we didn’t know that, so we go to the ER, and they do a bunch of tests on her, and one of the tests they do is they run an EKG on her. And they say the EKG looks basically normal but we just want to have some follow-up. They send us to a cardiologist and the cardiologist takes a second look and does an ultrasound and then tells us that she has a heart murmur, not just a heart murmur, it’s actually such a large hole in her heart, she had an atrial septal defect, she had an ASD, and she had a heart murmur that was so –you couldn’t even hear it because the hole in her heart was so large, normally the heart murmur comes from, you hear the blood flowing the wrong way through the heart, you couldn’t hear it because the hole was so large in her heart.
So in August of last year, August of 2015, rather, she had to have open-heart surgery. The surgeon was Dr. Vaughn Starnes, exactly the same surgeon who worked on Jimmy Kimmel’s kid. It was at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles; could not be more grateful to Children’s Hospital LA or Dr. Starnes, who is, indeed, the master of his craft. There is a reason he’s the best in the world and we were lucky enough to be able to work with him. He obviously did the work and saved our daughter’s life.
She wouldn’t have died immediately; it wasn’t an emergency situation quite as much as Jimmy Kimmel’s kid, it sounds like, but she would have had failure to thrive as she got older, she would have had to have open-heart surgery. If they hadn’t detected it, it would have shortened her life-span to 30 or 40.
Now they fixed it; she’s good as new; thank God, everything is fine, and she’s great.
The reason that I tell this story is because when Jimmy Kimmel is talking about the National Institutes of Health and federal funding, and health insurance and all the rest of this, the reason I was able to get great coverage for my kid is because I was employed and also because my wife and I had health insurance long before we had a kid.
He’s missing a couple of key points here and I wanted to establish sort of the bona fides here. So when I’m speaking about this I’m not speaking from the perspective of someone who hasn’t had experienced nearly identically what Jimmy Kimmel has experienced here; it was absolutely terrifying; you go and you meet with the doctor and the doctor tells you your kid – even if the doctor says that it’s a surgery that’s done regularly it’s still frightening as all hell because they’re cracking open your kid’s chest, cutting her open, hooking her up to tubes. It was really terrifying and horrifying and thank God she’s okay.
But the point is that when he immediately connects that to federal funding, when he immediately connects it to Obamacare, I don’t like the process, as a general rule, I don’t like the process of using personal stories like this to push for legislation or to push for public policy; because it doesn’t necessarily follow.
What I mean by this is, again, Dr. Starnes; great doctor; Children’s Hospital; great hospital. Most of the people, when we were in Children’s Hospital during the recovery, we were in the ICU for about a week, when we were in Children’s Hospital, most of the people who were in Children’s Hospital, I know this because my wife rotated through Children’s Hospital, because she’s a doctor in the LA area, a huge number of the kids in Children’s Hospital are not kids who have great insurance; many of them don’t have any insurance. The fact is that in the United States of America, if you have an emergency situation like Jimmy Kimmel had, let’s just assume this happened at Cedars-Sinai, again, where my wife gave birth, let’s assume that the exact same situation happened, but there was no insurance, and the doctor spotted that there was this emergency surgery that had to happen in order to prolong the child’s life, they don’t ask insurance; they immediately send the kid over to Children’s Hospital and Dr. Starnes works on the kid and then somebody else fills the gap.
Children’s Hospital is very lucky in that Children’s has enormous sums of giving. People give tons of money to Children’s Hospital. I’m sure Jimmy Kimmel will too. We’ve given charity to Children’s Hospital. There’s a whole wall, an entire wall in Children’s Hospital, that is just names of celebrities who have given money to Children’s Hospital to help support Children’s Hospital.
People are generous with their giving. People want to save people who are in need. The problem with the argument that we have to cover pre-existing conditions, which is basically what Jimmy Kimmel is saying here, is number one, when it comes to children, it is the job of the parents to have health insurance when the kid is born, because the parents’ health insurance covers the kid, right? The fact is that my kid was not buying her own health insurance when she was a year and a half old, we had health insurance; it covered her.
That doesn’t mean that if there’s a gap that we as a community shouldn’t step in; that’s what charity is for, that’s why the hospitals cover the gap. That’s why costs are passed on, very often, through a back-door method, via the hospital, to people who do have insurance. But it does say, that it is a mistake as a society, to simply say to people that there is no moral responsibility to get health insurance while you’re healthy and while you don’t have health problems. Because if you don’t do that, if you just say, whenever you get sick you can immediately take advantage of the system, people will wait to get sick to take advantage of the system and you’ll end up bankrupting the system.
The reason that Children’s is so great is because Children’s gets paid lots of money. They get paid lots and lots and lots of money to do these sorts of things. Dr. Starnes, I’m sure, earns millions of dollars a year and he deserves every penny that he makes. And he is able to do that because there are people paying voluntarily into health insurance to cover themselves so that when something bad happens he gets paid. Dr. Starnes is not somebody who should be working for sixty grand a year like a postal worker. If you do that to the health system you are not going to be able to get the kinds of surgeries that Dr. Starnes provides or the kind of care that Children’s Hospital provides.
And I think that it is deeply important that when we talk about everybody getting the sort of care that Jimmy Kimmel’s kid got or that my kid gets, in order for that to happen, you have to make it affordable and quality. The only thing that does that is a free market. And again, that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be a safety net provided by a society. I’m not even talking about through the government now, I’m talking about through charity, and through communities, and through charity hospitals, all of that is true.
But to use a personal situation that is really difficult and heartbreaking in order to promulgate a public policy that actually doesn’t achieve what you’re seeking to achieve, is not worthwhile. Children’s Hospital could not be what Children’s Hospital is if it existed as a public sector hospital unless you are willing to tax people up the wazoo and that sort of taxation scheme bankrupts countries and doesn’t provide the same care anyway; look at the national health service in Britain or the nationalized health care service in Canada.
I have nothing but sympathy for Jimmy Kimmel because I’ve been through, as I say, exactly the same thing, and it’s heartbreaking. And that heartbreak should not be used as a political tool in order to push a political agenda. And I’m sure that Jimmy Kimmel believes every word that he’s saying. But funding for the National Institutes of Health has nothing to do with what happened here. Again, the American people are insanely generous; the amount of research that goes into the sorts of techniques that Dr. Starnes used is tremendous and it’s not from the public sector in the most part; it’s actually from the private sector.