Jimmy Kimmel's tearful recount of son's brush with death

Jimmy Kimmel waded into the raging debate on healthcare in the United States.
Jimmy Kimmel waded into the raging debate on healthcare in the United States.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE- PRESSE

LOS ANGELES • Choking back tears, star comedian Jimmy Kimmel has recounted his newborn son's brush with death - and waded into the raging debate on healthcare in America - in an emotional speech that went viral on Tuesday.

One of the biggest names in American comedy and host of February's Oscars, the 49-year-old used the opening monologue of his Jimmy Kimmel Live! show to announce the arrival last month of his son Billy, who appeared at first to be a healthy newborn.

But in the sequence on Monday night, he went on to recount how, minutes after the birth, the infant began to turn blue and it became apparent that something was seriously wrong.

Doctors determined that Billy had a serious birth defect requiring immediate open heart surgery followed by years of monitoring and future medical procedures.

None of that poses an insurmountable challenge to a multi-millionaire performer like Kimmel.

But it led him to reflect during a tearful 13-minute speech on the plight of other families whose children face similar medical crises.

Without mentioning it by name, he plugged former United States president Barack Obama's healthcare law which has come under attack by his successor Donald Trump and congressional Republicans who are pushing a second attempt to dismantle it.

"Until a few years ago, millions and millions of us had no access to health insurance at all," Kimmel told the audience.

"Before 2014, if you were born with congenital heart disease like my son was, there was a good chance you would never be able to get health insurance because you had a pre-existing condition.

"If your baby is going to die and it doesn't have to, it shouldn't matter how much money you make," Kimmel said.

"I think that's something now, whether you're a Republican or a Democrat or something else, we all agree on, right?" he added, to cheers from the crowd.

As the broadcast went viral on Tuesday, the former Democratic president was among those who tweeted his support.

"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!" Mr Obama wrote.

The requirement, under Mr Obama's Affordable Care Act (ACA) for insurance providers to offer coverage regardless of pre-existing conditions, is a key sticking point in Mr Trump's attempts to repeal the law, with conservatives seeking to scrap the protection but other Republicans unwilling to water down such a popular provision.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 04, 2017, with the headline 'Jimmy Kimmel's tearful recount of son's brush with death'. Print Edition | Subscribe