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A sick child is wrenching for the parents, but policy answers are not so simple

May 5, 2017 | Blog | 0 comments

A sick child is wrenching for the parents, but policy answers are not so simple.

I feel your pain. But please use your brain.

(Michelle, please don’t stoop to insults.  Mr. Kimmel’s sincerity is obvious.  You may disagree without being disagreeable.)

On Monday, late-night-TV comedian Jimmy Kimmel delivered an emotional monologue about his newborn son. His baby was born with a congenital heart defect that required emergency open-heart surgery. Millions of American parents, myself included, have walked in Kimmel’s shoes. We’ve experienced the terrifying roller coaster of emotions — panic, helplessness, anger, anxiety, relief, grief, and unconditional love — that comes with raising chronically ill kids. But Kimmel didn’t use his high-profile platform to educate the public about coping with rare diseases. Or to champion the nation’s best and brightest pediatric specialists and medical innovators. The Tinseltown celebrity turned his personal plight into a political weapon, which his liberal friends were all too happy to wield. Top Democrats tweeted their praise for Kimmel’s advocacy of expanded government health-care regulations: “Well said, Jimmy,” Barack Obama gushed. “Thanks @jimmykimmel for sharing your story & reminding us what’s at stake w/health care,” Hillary Clinton effused. The Huffington Post piled on: “Jimmy Kimmel’s Humanity Underscores Heartlessness Of GOP’s Approach To The Poor.” I don’t need lectures from Huffington Post and Hollywood elites about having a heart.

(Mr. Kimmel does not need you to lecture him about having a brain.  Nor did he choose to wield a political weapon, though others chose to make that happen.  This is not about Rs vs. Ds.  In fact, both Rs and Ds have made equal contributions to this nation’s health care problems.  And both are continuing to use health care as a wedge issue.  It is time to put patients first, not politics.)

Neither do the rest of America’s parents, whatever their political affiliations, who know what it’s like to stay up night after endless night with suffering children, wondering whether they would ever be able to breathe normally again or see the light of the next day. Kimmel doesn’t need more maudlin Twitter suck-uppery. He needs a healthy fact-check. “Before 2014,” he claimed, “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.” This is false. If parents had health insurance, the child would have been covered under the parents’ policy whether or not the child had a health problem. Kimmel continued: “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.” The term “pre-existing condition” is used to describe uninsured chronically ill people who apply for insurance coverage, not for a child in need of immediate care. Moreover, in the U.S., virtually all hospitals are legally obligated to provide emergency treatment to every patient who urgently requires emergency medical care regardless of the patient’s insurance status. This would include a newborn with an urgent heart condition. This requirement does not apply only to patients who enter an emergency room. It applies to all patients who set foot on a hospital’s property. In the U.S., virtually all hospitals are legally obligated to provide emergency treatment to every patient who urgently requires emergency medical care regardless of the patient’s insurance status. Kimmel then dramatically asserted: “If your baby is going to die, and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make.” I repeat: It does not matter if you are rich are poor or if you are uninsured. If your baby is in the hospital, he or she will receive emergency care no matter what.

(OK, Michelle.  Now it is time for your fact check.  The US spends far more on health care than does any other country, and not because we have great care.  No, in fact, US health care delivery is least able in the developed world to prevent death amenable to health care intervention.  We spend far more (an average twice as much per capita) and are least able to do what health care delivery in the first world should be able to do.  Yes, people who happen to be at a hospital’s door are legally able (or should be) to get urgent care.  But only in the US (in the first world) do patients with real health care problems go without.  Only in the US (in the first world) do we have gofundme accounts for necessary health care.  Only in the US (in the first world) do we have bake sales to raise money for needed surgery and other care.  Only in the US (in the first world) is the cost of health care the leading cause of personal bankruptcy.  All this despite the FACT that we are paying more than $10,000 per person for health care, 2/3 from tax revenues.  Mr. Kimmel has stated a fact: in the US it should not matter what a person has for an income, we all should get needed health care.  And yet, despite the laws requiring urgent care, we Americans don’t all get needed care. Urgent care laws are not enough.  We should recognize the FACT that health care in the US receives more support per capita from taxes than is true in any other nation in the world.  Health care is not a commodity, it is a tax supported public good, more so in the US than anywhere in the world.  It follows that medically necessary care in the US should be readily available to all.)

“This isn’t football,” Kimmel implored. “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.” Kimmel implies that opposition to Obamacare-style insurance mandates is both un-American and indecent. Had he been less hysterical, he would have acknowledged that different health-care systems have pros and cons — and decent Americans can have legitimate differences of opinion on such matters.

(Partisan squabbles are playing havoc with American health care, even though there is no meaningful difference in the policy proposals from the two major political parties.  Yes, decent Americans can have legitimate differences of opinion on how best to deliver health care.  But, in fact, the majority of Americans share Mr. Kimmel’s stated beliefs.  Most Americans accept that single payer health care is the best option for health care financing.)

In the land of make-believe, it would be wonderful if everyone had free access to the same high-quality care Kimmel and his family did at Cedars-Sinai and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. In the real world, Obamacare plans have severely curtailed the number of doctors and hospitals that customers can use. Command-and-control regulations on guaranteed issue, community rating, and pre-existing conditions favored by Kimmel and company are driving up costs for everyone. Limited access to specialists and long waits have become the increasing norm — just like that other model of government-run health care, the Veterans Affairs system, where the despicable practice of “death by queuing” spiked under Obama. Moving toward a nationalized health system might play well with an emotion-driven late-night comedy audience. But sober observers know it would mean undermining America’s superior access to cutting-edge diagnosis, innovative treatment, top specialists and surgeons, technology, and drugs. Compassion without clear thinking is just a waste of Kleenex.

(Michelle, in your land of make-believe, America has superior access to cutting-edge diagnosis, innovative treatment, top specialists and surgeons, technology, and drugs.  Not true now, and not ever the case because of market forces.  American health care is good because of government support, beginning with the massive tax credits offered to the health insurance industry, the most wasteful health care financing mechanism ever invented.  Health insurance in the US exists because of tax payer largesse.  Without tax payer support, there would be no modern American health care system.  What Americans have contributed to the development of clinical science has been done by public financing, not private.  It is true that Obamacare is a failure, but that is due to its reliance on private health insurance as the mechanism for health financing.  Republicans make the same mistake.  The VA system is true socialized medicine.  No one in the US is seriously proposing that the socialized medicine concept be used for all Americans.  Single payer, the favored health system reform of the majority of Americans, calls for public financing (already and long since true) for private health care delivery.  Death by queuing is exactly what happens in the pretend market based medical care promoted by both Ds and Rs.  Except, for many people in the US, there is no queu to get into, they die without queuing.)

— Michelle Malkin is the host of “Michelle Malkin Investigates” on Her e-mail address is [email protected].