WaPo Fact Check Debunks Kimmel's Monologue Attacking GOP on CHIP Funding

Jimmy Kimmel and son on Dec. 11 / Getty Images
December 13, 2017

Reporter Glenn Kessler found late-night comedian Jimmy Kimmel’s Monday monologue on the Children’s Health Insurance Program contained many inconsistencies with the truth.

In a Washington Post fact checking investigation, Kessler debunked Kimmel's framing and some of his talking points from his speech on CHIP, a program created to fund health care for children in need who are not covered under other assistance programs.

Kimmel claimed during a "Jimmy Kimmel Live" opening monologue that there is no longer bipartisan support for CHIP, which has historically been a nonpartisan issue and received votes from both sides of the aisle.

"About one in eight children are covered only by CHIP, and it’s not controversial. It’s not a partisan thing," Kimmel said on Monday while holding his young son who recently underwent heart surgery.

"In fact, the last time funding for CHIP was authorized was in 2015," Kimmel continued. "It passed with a vote of 396 to 37 in the House and 92 to 8 in the Senate. Overwhelmingly, Democrats and Republicans supported it. Until now."

Kimmel has been vocal of his views on health care policy, which take a critical stance on GOP plans and a favorable one on Obamacare, in recent months. During Republican's efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare, Kimmel often invoked the experience of his son who has had to undergo multiple surgeries to address a congenital heart disease.

Kessler refused to accept Kimmel's notion that somehow the issue of funding CHIP had become a Democratic issue rather than a bipartisan one.

He mentioned the stopgap spending bill, which was signed by Trump in early December, that counters Kimmel's argument. The bill shifts internal funding at the Department of Health and Human Services to help states where CHIP is running out of money until lawmakers are done negotiating a long-term reauthorization of funding for the program.

Kimmel also claimed CHIP had become a "bargaining chip" while the GOP works to pass tax reform.

However, the Post reporter said the issues delaying funding are actually part of the normal year-end negotiations that occur in Congress every year.

"Few lawmakers are really against CHIP; the question is how to fund it," Kessler wrote in his analysis.

When CHIP was created in 1977, the idea was for the children’s health care fund to be paid for with money raised from taxes on tobacco products. However, many House Democrats voted against the Nov. 3 CHIP reauthorization bill because they were opposed to how the program would be funded.

In the House passed bill, the GOP shifted funding to fees collected from Obamacare enrollees who failed to make premium payments in a shortened grace period.

The late-night host also argued Republicans are putting "a tax cut that mostly goes to the rich ahead of the lives of children."

"Why hasn’t CHIP been funded already?" he asked. "If these were potato chips they were taking away from us, we would be marching on Washington with pitchforks and spears right now."

The Post noted Kimmel's frame of reference was off.

"CHIP funding is being negotiated even as Congress is debating a tax plan." Kessler said. "Both the House and Senate have signaled they support reauthorization of CHIP. The impasses over funding had led to some uncertainty in a handful of states, but there is no immediate crisis — and the recent stopgap funding bill provides flexibility to keep CHIP programs running in states."

"CHIP is completely unrelated to the tax legislation; in fact, it won’t be and was never going to be part of the tax bill. Congress is able to work on several issues at once, Kessler added.

Despite the inaccuracies in Kimmel's Monday speech, it was applauded by numerous news outlets, including the Associated Press, CNN, Vanity Fair, CBS, and in an initial piece from the Washington Post.