Jimmy Kimmel Gets Emotional About His Infant Son Billy's Survival & 'Preexisting Conditions'

Kimmel shared the story of how an extraordinary medical team save his baby son Billy's life, and how that relates to the vital importance of keeping the ACA. (Image Credit: Flickr/Disney World Group)

Kimmel shared the story of how an extraordinary medical team save his baby son Billy's life, and how that relates to the vital importance of keeping the ACA. (Image Credit: Flickr/Disney World Group)

A long time ago, I had the incredible privilege of working for an organization that, in part, trained volunteer advocates to meet with lawmakers on public health issues. We would always tell them that the most effective argument you can ever make is your personal story. Share your experience with a legislator and they will see how their choices affect real people. Those stories will live in the memories of lawmakers and their staffs much longer that any facts or figures and they have an emotional impact that can never be denied.

Last night, Jimmy Kimmel gave us a master class in putting the strength of a personal story to work.

Kimmel stepped onto the stage and warned his audience that he had a serious story to tell, but one that had a happy ending. He proceeded to spend the next fifteen minutes telling the tale of the birth of his son, Billy, on April 21, and the chain of events that led to a diagnosis of a heart defect, immediate transfer to LA Children’s Hospital, and surgery that saved Billy’s life.

Kimmel spared no emotion. He often fought tears as he was speaking and he was effusive in his praise and thanks to all the nurses and doctors who made Billy’s story one of triumph, not tragedy. He was especially enthusiastic in his gratitude to Children’s Hospital of LA and the different entities that support their miraculous work every day, going as far as to flash their donation page address on the screen.

If I told you I didn’t listen with tears in my eyes, I would be lying.

After we were all able to delight in adorable pictures of sweet Billy back at home after his successful surgery, Kimmel turned his attention to Washington.

“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 health insurance at all. 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 preexisting condition. You were born with a preexisting condition, and if your parents didn’t have medical insurance, you might not even live long enough to get denied because of a preexisting condition,” he told the crowd. 

That last line was probably supposed to be a joke but it fell on a silently attentive audience.

Kimmel speaks nothing but truth: prior to passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), insurance companies could — and did — refuse to sell policies to people with pre-existing health conditions. Anything from cancer to mental health issues was reason enough for an insurance company to turn an applicant away. The segment of the Obamacare law that established that insurers could not refuse to sell a person a policy due to health conditions was arguably the most important health system reform of our lifetimes.

Kimmel went on to remind the audience that Obamacare is back on the chopping block in Washington, even though most Americans would agree that “…no parent should ever have to decide if they can afford to save their child’s life. It just shouldn’t happen. Not here.”

He's right. It shouldn’t happen and we have the power to make sure it doesn't happen. One quick phone call to your representatives in Congress to tell them to preserve access to health care under the ACA will make a difference for babies like Billy and so many other Americans. Just go to www.house.gov and look up your rep’s number and make the call. That’s all you have to do.

Jimmy Kimmel told his story. You can tell yours, too.


Image Credit: Flickr/Disney World Group

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