Jimmy Kimmel leads the way on health care reform

“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?”
Jimmy Kimmel

“No, I do not believe that healthcare is a basic right.” Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, April 19, 2017

Is healthcare a basic right?

Every wealthy, industrialized nation in the world except the U.S. has answered “yes” to this question.

The United States is still undecided.

Fortunately, it looks like the national debate about this issue is heating up and going public.

Late night TV host, Jimmy Kimmel, opened his show on May 1 with an impassioned, emotional monologue detailing his newborn son’s open heart surgery. Billy Kimmel was born with major heart abnormalities. He was experiencing a serious oxygen deficiency.

A tearful Kimmel expressed heartfelt gratitude to the doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals who had rescued his son from a certain early death. He also took the opportunity to challenge both his TV audience and Washington lawmakers to make sure that what was available for him and his family would be available to all Americans.

Meanwhile, two nights before the birth of Billy Kimmel, Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, met with constituents in a town hall meeting in Meridian, Idaho. A woman asked Labrador if he believed health care to be a basic human right in America. The Congressman answered candidly, “No, I don’t.”

He reasoned that if health care is a human right, then it must be provided by the government and therefore, he stood in opposition.

Rep. Labrador did say he supports “access” to health care for everyone. The woman countered by saying that she has access to buy a Mercedes any day of the week, but she can’t afford it.

Like this woman, we can all get by without a Mercedes. At some point in our lives, however, we all need health care. Sometimes, as in the case of Billy Kimmel, it’s a matter of life and death.

In an April 11 editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. Donald Berwick provides his readers with an accurate diagnosis of our national health care malady.

Our problem, he says, is not a lack of ideas. It is a failure of will and intent.

In his editorial, Berwick referenced a detailed study by the National Academy of Medicine, which offered eight policy priorities which could make our system more efficient, less costly and more inclusive. 

He noted that this report offers no new surprises. As evidenced by the experience in multiple nations around the globe, health system experts know how to transition to an affordable, universal health care system.

We know what to do. We just haven’t decided to do it.

Berwick argues that if the United States had undertaken road building or space exploration in the same way it is chasing health system reform, there would be no interstate highway system and no footprints on the moon.

The editorial concludes as follows: “The U.S. discourse about health system reform at the moment is a debate about ‘whether’ disguised as a debate about ‘how’. That will not do. This nation built the highways it decided to build. Its journey to the moon began with the decision to get there, and in no other way. It will prove the same for the health and care this nation seeks.”

Jimmy Kimmel showed us the way forward. “This isn’t football,” he pleaded. “There are no teams. We are the team; it’s the United States of America. Don’t let partisan squabbles divide us on something every decent person wants.”

The way forward is simple. Like Mr. Kimmel, all Americans need to speak out loud and clear: “We want affordable, basic health care for everybody.” Period.

R. Rex Hussmann, a retired marriage/family therapist and chaplain at Northwest Georgia Regional Hospital for 18 years, writes for the website MOVE GEORGIA FORWARD. Readers may contact him at MoveGeorgiaForward@gmail.com.

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