Even as he was under fire on social media, U.S. Rep. John Shimkus doubled down on comments he made about a proposed overhaul of the Affordable Care Act — telling a radio host on Friday that his argument that men shouldn’t pay for prenatal coverage is “simple” and that “an average Midwesterner would understand.”
During a 27-hour debate on the House Republicans’ revision to the law on Thursday, Shimkus, R-Ill., questioned why men would have to pay for prenatal care, as President Obama’s healthcare law requires.
Under Obamacare, women pay for basic services that benefit men, such as prostate cancer tests. Similarly, prenatal care was considered a basic health benefit under Obamacare, aimed to cover maternity care because in some cases private insurance carriers treated pregnancy as a preexisting condition and didn’t cover the costs.
“What mandate in the Obamacare bill does he take issue with?” U.S. Rep. Michael Doyle, D-Pa., asked Shimkus during the committee meeting.
“What about men having to purchase prenatal care?” Shimkus replied.
“There is no such thing as a-la-carte insurance, John,” Doyle said, referring to how health insurance currently works by having the healthy subsidize the sick.
“I’m just . . . is that not correct?” Shimkus said. “And should they?”
Shimkus’ response went viral after news reports began popping on Twitter — and after the abortion-rights organization NARAL tweeted a video of the exchange: “WOW. The #GOP’s reason to object to insurance covering prenatal care? ‘Why should men pay for it?'”
While Shimkus’ office did not respond to calls and emails for comment on Friday, the Illinois congressman appeared on a St. Louis radio show and was asked about the response to his remarks, which even got a response on Twitter from Chelsea Clinton, who asked: “With all due respect, where do these men (all men?) think they came from?”
“I haven’t really followed the brouhaha other than my staff saying, ‘Hey you’ve got a lot of attention.’ But I think the average Midwesterner would understand,” Shimkus said on the Marc Cox Show on FM NewsTalk 97.1. “If you believe in markets and competition and choice and if you want to have lower insurance prices and higher quality, people should be able to buy the type of insurance that they can use, not the type of insurance that the government thinks they need to have.”
Shimkus cited a 24-year-old single man as an example: “Should he be required because of federal law to have maternity coverage in his personal plan? And I think people would say, ‘Well that would be crazy?'”
“It’s pretty simple,” Shimkus said, also asking why a 23-year-old woman should have to pay for prostate coverage in her healthcare plan.
Shimkus’ comments are the latest controversy in the long-running debate about Obamacare. Two House committees have approved legislation to undo the Affordable Cart Act and replace it with a system of tax credits and a rollback of Medicaid expansion. President Donald Trump also has vowed to undo one of Obama’s signature achievements.