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Jimmy Kimmel tells of newborn son’s illness

Jimmy Kimmel tells of newborn son's illness

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Media captionThe US television host opens up about his baby son's illness

US television host Jimmy Kimmel has tearfully told of his newborn son's illness and brush with death last week.

At the end of his story he made a plea for people to support the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

He said: "No parent should ever have to decide if they can afford to save their child's life."

President Trump made repealing Obamacare one of the central tenets of his campaign, castigating its costs and calling it a "disaster".

In March his attempt to replace it failed, in an embarrassing setback for the new administration, but Republicans still aim to change the system.

Kimmel – a fixture of late-night TV in the US and host of this year's Oscars – told the studio audience on his regular show that three hours after a normal birth, his son Billy started to turn purple.

Image copyright Jimmy Kimmel
Image caption Baby Billy is now on the mend

One nurse spotted it and took him away for checks, soon finding that he had a heart illness. The situation looked serious, and "we had atheists praying for us," he said.

But Billy went through open heart surgery at three days old and, thanks to the efforts of the staff at the children's hospital, he survived.

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"You know, before 2014, if you were born with congenital heart disease like my son was, there was a good chance you wouldn't be able to get health insurance because you had a pre-existing condition," Kimmel said.

"If your parents didn't have medical insurance, you might not live long enough to even get denied."

He continued: "If your baby is going to die and doesn't have to it shouldn't matter how much money you make.

"I mean I think that's something that whether you're a Republican or a Democrat or something else – we all agree on that, right?"

"This isn't football. There are no teams; we are the team. No parent should ever have to decide if they can afford to save their child's life. It just shouldn't happen, not here."

Image copyright @ASlavitt

One of the people behind the Affordable Care Act, Andy Slavitt, tweeted that those who watched Mr Kimmel's monologue should use it as inspiration to lobby Congress.

Barack Obama himself thanked Mr Kimmel for his defense of Obamacare, tweeting: "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!" the ex-president added.

Remind me, what is Obamacare?

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the law's formal name, aims to decelerate the growth of US health spending, which is the highest in the world.

  • Is Obamacare more popular than ever?
  • Why is Obamacare controversial?
  • How much has the president achieved so far?

Obamacare is kept solvent by an individual mandate that requires Americans who do not receive medical insurance through their employers, or free healthcare from the government, to buy such coverage through government-run websites called marketplaces.

The programme offers subsidies to make health insurance more affordable and aims to reduce the cost of such policies by bringing younger, healthier people into the medical coverage system.

Obamacare also requires businesses with more than 50 full-time employees to offer health insurance.

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Why is it so controversial?

There are around 20 million additional Americans who now have health insurance under the law.

But the programme has been rocked by premium hikes – which were a problem before Obamacare – and a trio of national insurers abandoning the online marketplaces.

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Media caption'I used to get everything I wanted', says the US president of his time as a political donor

Its individual mandate is unpopular because many uninsured Americans who end up paying tax penalties are low-to-moderate income workers juggling rent, car payments or student loans.

But the law is popular, too, because it bans insurance companies from denying health coverage to people with pre-existing health conditions and allows young people to remain on their parents' plans until age 26.

Obamacare has also defied Republican predictions that it would bloat government expenditure.

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