Jimmy Kimmel was crying before he even started talking.
“I have a story to tell about something that happened to our family last week,” the late-night host said at the top of his show Monday night. “Before I go into it, I want you to know it has a happy ending.” It’s a good thing he said that because otherwise, this 13-minute monologue would have been even more unbearable to endure.
Kimmel went on to tell his audience and viewers that this past week, his wife gave birth to a baby boy named William John Kimmel—Billy for short. Everything seemed fine at first until a nurse noticed that his heart had a murmur and his coloring wasn’t right.
A cardiac specialist rushed in and discovered that the baby had a dangerous heart condition and needed surgery right away. They brought him from Cedars-Sinai to Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles, where they successfully performed the first of several open-heart surgeries he will likely need over the next several years of his life.
As he told the story, thanking the doctors and nurses who diagnosed and treated his new son, along with the family members, coworkers, and friends who were there to support him, Kimmel regularly broke down in tears, struggling to get through the harrowing details.
Finally, after about 10 minutes, Kimmel decided he wanted to make a larger point about how the American health-care system works. He is among the wealthiest people in the country, able to afford any treatment his baby may have needed to survive. But he is aware that others are not so lucky and are forced to make horrible choices about how to proceed when they or their families need medical help. This was especially true before the passage of the Affordable Care Act.
Kimmel pointed out that just last month, President Trump proposed a $6 billion cut in funding to the National Institutes of Health. “And thank God our congressmen made a deal last night to not go along with that,” he said. Instead, they increased funding by $2 billion. “And I applaud them for doing that,” he added.
“We were brought up to believe that we live in the greatest country in the world,” Kimmel continued. “But until a few years ago, millions and millions of us had no access to health insurance at all. You know, before 2014, if you were born with congenital heart disease, like my son was, there’s a good chance you’d never be able to get health insurance, because you had a pre-existing condition.” And if your parents didn’t have insurance, he added, “You may not even live long enough to get denied because of your 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,” Kimmel said, his voice breaking again. “I think that’s something that whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat or something else, we all agree on that, right?” His audience roared with approval.
Whatever party you belong to, Kimmel said, “We need to make sure that the people who represent us, and people 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,” Kimmel said through tears. “No parent should ever have to decide if they can afford to save their child’s life. It just shouldn’t happen. Not here.”
It was the most personal, moving, and convincing case yet made by a public figure for keeping the Affordable Care Act intact. And it will be hard to ignore.