Health Care

Has Kimmel monologue moved the health care debate?

Jimmy Kimmel’s poignant 13-minute monologue detailing the birth of his son Billy and the subsequent surgery to repair the baby’s heart may have in a matter of hours done what few late-night hosts have: swayed a policy debate in Washington.

The debate over an ObamaCare replacement bill is being driven by a host of factors. But Kimmel, with his personal story, tried to make a nonpartisan point about the importance of protecting coverage for those with pre-existing conditions.  

“What Kimmel succeeded in doing was to give a voice in a very public and powerful way to the concerns of millions of people across the country,” Dan Gerstein, a New York-based political strategist, told Fox News. 

In the monologue, which has been viewed more than 7.5 million times on YouTube since Monday, Kimmel did not take a specific position but appealed to lawmakers:

"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." 

It's unclear whether they took their cue from Kimmel, but House Republicans spent the last two days butting heads over the proposed American Health Care Act’s weakening of insurance protections for people with preexisting conditions. The issue is a provision letting states waive a requirement that insurers not charge seriously ill customers more. 

Rep. Fred Upton, a Republican from Michigan, initially came out against the bill for those and other reasons. But, in what could be a critical development, he has worked on an amendment aimed at easing those concerns. 

“This amendment would provide additional funds into the high risk pools to be spent for people that might otherwise lose their coverage because of a waiver a governor would seek,” Upton said. “I can now be in a place where I can support the bill with such an amendment.”

Upton’s proposed amendment would provide $8 billion over five years to help some people with pre-existing medical conditions pay costly insurance premiums, in states that waive those requirements.  

In an interview with Fox News, Upton said he expects an up-or-down vote on the revised health care bill by Thursday. 

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., called it a "very big amendment." 

Despite Upton and fellow Rep. Billy Long of Missouri coming out in support of the bill, it is still unclear whether Republicans have enough votes to pass it. 

The Trump administration is trying to offer assurances that consumer protections will, in some form, stay in place. 

Senior members of the administration have expressed their sympathies for Kimmel's plea – saying  children should not be denied care because of pre-existing conditions and adding that Republicans aren’t looking to kick people off their health care plans. 

“Everyone, I think, agrees with Jimmy Kimmel that we have enough money in this country to provide care for those type of folks,” White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney told "Fox & Friends" on Wednesday morning.

The House Freedom Caucus, which is made up of the most conservative members, has remained mum when it comes to Kimmel’s comments, but a former member of the caucus gave his stinging opinion in a tweet attacking the late-night host.

Former Rep. Joe Walsh of Illinois tweeted about the monologue: "Sorry Jimmy Kimmel: your sad story doesn't obligate me or anybody else to pay for somebody else's health care."

Political analysts said that while Walsh’s tweet may have been crass, it did summarize the view of some in the caucus. 

“Joe Walsh’s comments represent the id of the House Freedom Caucus and the feeling that ‘we don’t want to pay for other people’s care,’” Jeremy Mayer, an associate professor in the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University, said. “It may be a minority response across the country, but it is how they feel.”

A number of high-profile Democrats voiced their support for Kimmel’s health care appeal, including Hillary Clinton and former President Barack Obama.

“Well said, Jimmy. That's exactly why we fought so hard for the ACA, and why we need to protect it for kids like Billy. And congratulations!” Obama tweeted.

Fox News' Peter Doocy and Chad Pergram contributed to this report.