Jimmy Kimmel reveals the heartlessness of healthcare in America | Arwa Mahdawi

Arwa Mahdawi
Jimmy Kimmel opened up about his child’s health problems on his show. Photograph: Randy Holmes/Getty Images

I don’t know why everyone in America is so obsessed with health care reform and why it causes endless debate. It seems obvious that there is a very simple and very fair solution to this endless reform rigmarole: let poor people die.

This may sound sort of harsh, but bear with me. I didn’t arrive at this conclusion without a rigorous analysis of the facts and a long, hard look at cold, hard reality. And it’s this sort of objective thinking that’s really needed when it comes to healthcare reform. The one thing we must be careful not to do is get emotional about things like life and death to push a political agenda.

Take Jimmy Kimmel, for example. On Monday, the talkshow host delivered an emotional monologue about his new son, who was born with severe heart defects requiring emergency surgery. At the end of this, he urged Americans to support the Affordable Care Act.

Kimmel noted that before the ACA, also known as Obamacare, was introduced, “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.”

While Kimmel’s story is obviously tragic, he’s not exactly qualified to decide important policy issues for America. I mean, the guy is a celebrity, not a politician. Further, it is selfish to suggest that Americans should feel some sort of responsibility for their fellow citizens. It doesn’t matter how sick someone might be or how many pre-existing conditions they might have – if they’re hardworking and motivated they can pull themselves up by their bootstraps and find a way to pay for themselves.

As Joe Walsh, a former congressman, tweeted on Tuesday afternoon: “Sorry Jimmy Kimmel: your sad story doesn’t obligate me or anybody else to pay for somebody else’s health care.” Walsh, by the way, doesn’t even want to pay for his own kids’ healthcare – at one point, he owed $117,000 in child support. Now there’s a guy who truly understands the American values of individual freedom and choice.

Oh, you know what? I give up. There’s no point attempting to satirize the sick state of America’s attitude towards healthcare – it’s already beyond parody. I mean, on Monday, the Republican congressman Mo Brooks of Alabama implied that people with pre-existing health conditions just weren’t living their lives “the right way”. Kimmel’s son may have been fresh out of the womb but he must have done something wrong to be landed with heart problems, right?

And remember when Jason Chaffetz, the Utah Republican congressman, compared heathcare to iPhones? “Americans have choices,” Chaffetz explained. “Maybe rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and they want to go spend hundreds of dollars on that, maybe they should invest it in their own healthcare.” An iPhone costs about $800. A simple appendectomy can cost up to $180,000. But making your own choices? That’s priceless.

And then there’s the inimitable Paul Ryan, who reminded us that “freedom is the ability to buy what you want to fit what you need. Obamacare is Washington telling you what to buy regardless of your needs.” He forgot to add the bit about freedom being the option to die when you can’t afford to buy what you want to fit what you need.

Health insurance simply doesn’t work on the free market. It’s not a bloody iPhone. In a free market, it makes no sense for insurers to cover people with pre-existing conditions. In a free market, it makes sense for CEOs of insurance companies to earn millions of dollars while poor people die.

Health insurance also isn’t efficient on a truly free market. According to the Bloomberg Health-Care Efficiency Index, the US has one of the least efficient health care systems in the world because it is so fragmented. Only Jordan, Colombia, Azerbaijan, Brazil and Russia ranked lower in the countries assessed.

For decades, Americans have been aggressively sold the idea that a national healthcare system is a socialist nightmare that runs counter to American values of freedom and choice. This started after the second world war, when President Harry Truman proposed a universal national health insurance program. His project failed in large part because it was fiercely attacked by the once influential American Medical Association.

The AMA invoked fears about communism and branded the idea of universal healthcare as “socialized medicine” and un-American. Truman retorted: “I put it to you, it is un-American to visit the sick, aid the afflicted or comfort the dying? I thought that was simple Christianity.” Well, it’s not the sort of Christianity that Republicans practice, it seems.

You must have been born with inoperable heart defects not to agree with Kimmel’s statement that “if your baby is going to die and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make”.

The fact that Kimmel can make headlines for pointing out what should be the obvious – in a supposedly civilized country – is just mind-boggling. The health care debate may seem complex but at its core it boils down to a simple question of who matters and who doesn’t. And it seems very clear that, in America, if you’re poor you don’t matter.

By using Yahoo you agree that Yahoo and partners may use Cookies for personalisation and other purposes