May 4, 2017

Joe Walsh's tweets about Jimmy Kimmel's baby shed light on health care debate




Former Congressman Joe Walsh was acting very presidential Tuesday afternoon.

By which I mean he was impulsively tweeting venomous, half-baked thoughts — in this case his reaction to late-night comedian Jimmy Kimmel's monologue Monday about his newborn son's dramatic battle for life at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

"Sorry Jimmy Kimmel," wrote the feisty Republican who represented the northwest suburban 8th U.S. Congressional District from 2011 to 2013. "Your sad story doesn't obligate me or anybody else to pay for somebody else's health care."



Kimmel opened his nightly ABC talk show with an often-tearful, 13-minute retelling of the frightening days after son Billy's birth April 21 when a surgeon saved the boy's life by performing emergency surgery to repair a defect in his heart.

Toward the end Kimmel said, "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," he said. "I think that's something that, whether you're a Republican, or a Democrat or something else, we all agree on that, right?"






Well, no. Wrong.

I understand Kimmel's desire not to sully his powerful tale with partisanship, but the central difference of opinion in this major battle over insurance coverage is partisan. Democrats generally believe that access to consistent, affordable, quality health care is a right. Republicans generally believe that it is a privilege properly enjoyed by those with the means to afford it, like access to quality restaurants.

"Let's stop with the nonsense," Kimmel pleaded. "This isn't football. There are no teams. We are the team. It is the United States. Don't let their partisan squabbles divide us on something every decent person wants. No parent should ever have to decide if they can afford to save their child's life."

Walsh, 55, who has a nationally syndicated daily program that originates from Chicago conservative talk station WIND AM-560, helpfully jumped online to clarify.

To paraphrase: Life is about choices. And if you choose not to have enough money or a job that provides your children with urgently needed care, it's not my problem. It's your sick baby's problem. Good luck with that.

"My money was earned by me and should be kept by my family and I (sic)," Walsh tweeted a half-hour later. Then, the next morning, as he was being roasted on social and conventional media coast to coast (and mocked for earlier troubles when he fell behind in his child support payments), he added, "It's not compassion to forcibly take the money I make & give it to someone else. It is compassion for me to voluntarily help someone else."

The callousness of these remarks was echoed by Rep. Robert Pittenger, R-N.C., who told reporters Tuesday that, hey, if people with pre-existing medical conditions happen to live in a state that waives their protections under the GOP health care bill if it is enacted, they can always move to another state. The proposal "brings choice back to the American people," he said.

And it was in sync with remarks Monday on CNN by Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., that healthy "people who lead good lives … who've done things the right way … are seeing their costs skyrocketing" because of the existing requirement that we all chip in to pay for those with pre-existing conditions. "People who have higher health care costs (should) contribute more to the insurance pool," he said.

Look. We're all born with a terminal condition. Few of us face the fact as early as Billy Kimmel, but something's going to get us in the end. Luck will play a huge role in what ailments and injuries we have to fight along the way and how expensive those fights are going to be. Luck will also play a role in how able we'll be to cover those bills.






True compassion demands that we minimize the role of luck in access to necessary health care, not layer on hope for charity and pity.

Expand Kimmel's idea that "no parent should ever have to decide if they can afford to save their child's life" to include spouses, parents, siblings and selves.

That's what Democrats are fighting for.

And they owe Joe Walsh thanks for so clearly illustrating what they're fighting against.

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