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Jimmy Kimmel’s monologue about his baby’s heart surgery is also a plea for affordable health care

Jimmy Kimmel’s infant son was born with heart disease. The experience made him realize how lucky he is to have health care.

Alex Abad-Santos is a senior correspondent who explains what society obsesses over, from Marvel and movies to fitness and skin care. He came to Vox in 2014. Prior to that, he worked at the Atlantic.

Before Jimmy Kimmel even began his Monday-night monologue on Jimmy Kimmel Live, the usually jovial host was on the verge of tears, and warned his audience about the sad story he was going to tell.

“Before I go into it, I want you to know it has a happy ending,” he said. But his story also contained a serious message to American legislators who are debating health care right now.

Kimmel told a heart-wrenching story about his newborn son, who was born a little over a week ago with a congenital heart disease that could have killed him. Kimmel’s wife Molly McNearney (who’s the co-head writer of Jimmy Kimmel Live) gave birth to William “Billy” John Kimmel on April 21. Everything seemed fine at first, but a nurse heard a murmur in his heart and noticed that he didn’t look right.

“More doctors and nurses and equipment started coming in, and they determined he wasn’t getting enough oxygen into his blood,” Kimmel explained. “It’s a terrifying thing, my wife is back in the recovery room, she has no idea what’s going on, and I’m standing in the middle of a group of very worried-looking people.”

Doctors soon decided that Billy needed open heart surgery. The surgery was a success, though Billy will need follow-up surgeries. And while Kimmel, in tears throughout the emotional, 13-minute clip, made plenty of jokes to bring some levity to the situation (“even that son of a bitch Matt Damon sent flowers”), he also used the experience to make a larger point about the current state of health care in the United States. In particular, he cited President Donald Trump’s recent proposed cuts to the National Institute of Health.

“We were brought up to believe that we live in the greatest country in the world,” Kimmel said. “Until a few years ago, millions and millions of us had no access to health insurance at all. You know, before 2014, if you were born with congenital heart disease, like my son was, there’s a good chance you’d never be able to get health insurance, because you had a preexisting condition.”

That detail is something we should all consider when our lawmakers and representatives are deciding on health care in the country, Kimmel declared. He also nodded to how he’s lucky to have health insurance and make enough money to pay for Billy’s treatments, breaking down at the thought of so many people who are not in a position to get the health care they need for their children.

“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 that whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat or something else, we all agree on that, right? … No parent should ever have to decide if they can afford to save their child’s life. It just shouldn’t happen. Not here.”

Kimmel will be on paternity leave for the rest of the week.

Update: President Obama shared Kimmel’s story on Twitter Tuesday. The former president has so far been quiet on Republicans’ Obamacare repeal efforts, so it was notable he took this particular moment to weigh in.