Like many Americans, I'm frustrated that late-night TV host Jimmy Kimmel is currently having such an outsized influence on the national health policy debate. His moving story about his son Billy's health problems and his large platform have made him one of Obamacare's most important defenders, even though Kimmel is obviously no expert on health insurance markets or federal healthcare policy.
But I can't be mad at Kimmel. He's only doing what anyone in his position might do. If you were convinced that a particular law was responsible for saving your infant child's life, or the lives of similarly situated children, you'd defend it.
Unfortunately, Kimmel is unintentionally presenting only one side of the facts when it comes to the current debate. Americans deserve to hear all sides of an issue, and all possible solutions, before making a choice about where they stand.
Kimmel believes Obamacare has guaranteed a new right for people like his son, someone born with an expensive medical condition. But in reality, babies born to insured parents before Obamacare were added to their family's insurance plan at standard rates (if added within 30 days of birth).
Of course, there are children born to parents without insurance or parents who waited beyond 30 days to add their newborn, and now that Obamacare requires that insurance companies also sell policies to those children at standard rates as well.
While this policy certainly may be helpful to this group, we have to look at the whole picture. Any rule that requires insurers sell policies to people with expensive medical conditions at the same premiums as healthy people will destroy the incentive to buy insurance before the fact. It will create an incentive to wait until one is facing high medical bills to enroll in insurance.
In response, healthy people will drop insurance coverage, and premiums will become more expensive on those who remain insured. More people will drop out, premiums will increase more. Ironically, this ultimately harms sick people the most, because they are most in need of insurance plans to pay their medical bills. They cannot simply drop their costly coverage.
This is exactly what is happening under Obamacare. Kimmel and his supporters would do well to learn about how the crushing financial burden of Obamacare premiums is doing serious harm to many middle-income Americans. Many have responded by dropping coverage altogether.
The right, for better or worse, doesn't have celebrity spokespeople like the left does. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., deserves a lot of credit for joining Kimmel's show earlier in the summer to discuss healthcare. It takes guts to attempt a serious policy discussion in such an arena, and the discussion was gracious on both sides.
But the senator made a misstep in over-promising to Kimmel that any health plan earning his support would have to provide "the child born with a congenital heart disease be able to get everything she or he would need in that first year of life … even if they go over a certain amount."
The government simply cannot guarantee that every child in every case will get every treatment that he or she needs. This is a utopian idea, not a policy platform.
That said, we should try. We should do our very best to pass healthcare laws that provide the maximum number of families access to the very best care at the lowest costs. But we should do so in a way that considers the reality of incentives and other market forces in insurance. Obamacare failed to do this, and many have suffered in its wake.