Back after a week off, Jimmy Kimmel returned to his show Monday night with a surprise guest and possibly the most insistent appeal for the reinstatement of a languishing Federal program in late-night TV history — or at least since Kimmel last injected himself into the health-care debate.
A tearful Kimmel held his 7-month old son, Billy, saying: “Daddy cries on TV but Billy doesn’t. It’s unbelievable.” Kimmel’s son was born with a congenital heart condition, and has undergone two surgeries, with another to follow. Kimmel had taken last week off while Billy underwent the second surgery.
Kimmel then launched into a four-minute-long tirade urging restoration of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP — which has lost funding as the House and Senate work toward a final version of an overall spending and tax bill. (The program — backed by the federal government as well as states — lost its federal backing on Sept. 30. A number of states have said their funds will also run out in 2018, ending coverage for about 9 million children from low-income families.)
That’s the boilerplate. Kimmel was a little more direct:
“It’s on the back burner while they work out the new tax plans, which means parents of children with cancer and diabetes and heart problems are about to get letters saying their coverage could be cut off next month. Merry Christmas, right?”
“I don’t know what could be more disgusting than putting a tax cut that mostly goes to the rich ahead of the lives of children. Why hasn’t CHIP been funded already? If these were potato chips they were taking away from us — we would be marching on Washington with pitchforks and spears right now.”
In May, Kimmel urged support of the Affordable Care Act, but in September, he began to name names, chastising Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana) for the proposed Graham-Cassidy health care bill that would have supplanted Obamacare. Kimmel had Cassidy on the program, where the senator said he would “oppose” any plan that would turn away people for pre-existing health conditions, and that his plan would have to pass “The Jimmy Kimmel Test.”
Cassidy later reversed his position, and a late- night talk war ensued — which also spilled over into morning TV when “Fox & Friends” co-host Brian Kilmeade called Kimmel one of the “Hollywood elites” who used his show to push his “politics on the rest of the country.” Kimmel exploded again, saying “He’s dying to be a member of the ‘Hollywood elite.’ The only reason he’s not a member of the ‘Hollywood elite’ is that no one will hire him to be one.”
[According to a spokesman for Cassidy, “Cassidy’s legislation always included protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Suggesting otherwise is false. The bill specifically required that states ‘shall maintain access to adequate and affordable health insurance coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions.”]
And so — yes — it’s gotten personal and complicated. Late-night TV on the commercial networks has never waded into the dense foliage of policy debate for reasons too obvious to explain here (Stephen Colbert on “The Colbert Report” did frequently, of course). But Kimmel and “Live” are now the exception. If CHIP is reinstated by the end of the year, how much of a difference will Monday’s bully pulpit appeal have made? How much will late-night TV — or at least “Jimmy