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Rep. John Shimkus adds ignorance, insult to health care debate

When asked which Obamacare mandate he had an issue with, U.S. Rep. John Shimkus of Collinsville responded, “What about men having to purchase prenatal care?” Shimkus said. “I’m just … is that not correct? And should they?” | Wikimedia Commons file photo

Follow @csteditorialsU.S. Rep. John Shimkus has no clue how insurance works.

That’s troubling. Shimkus, a Republican from downstate Collinsville, sits on the influential House Energy and Commerce Committee, which writes the rules for insurance.

On Thursday, in a debate on repealing the Affordable Care Act, Democratic Rep. Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania asked Shimkus which Obamacare mandate he took issue with.

“What about men having to purchase prenatal care?” Shimkus said. “I’m just … is that not correct? And should they?”

What a shocking display of ignorance and sexism.


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Insurance is all about pooling risks. The financial risk is spread among a group of people. You can’t, as Doyle explained to Shimkus during their debate, purchase a la carte insurance. It doesn’t work that way. Never has.

Premiums paid by healthy people help to cover the costs of treating people with medical conditions, whether it’s the flu, prostate cancer or pregnancy. Slice and dice risks, and there is no end to it.

Most offensively, we don’t understand why Shimkus took a shot at prenatal care. Men and women alike, as a matter of compassion and finances, have a stake in healthy children coming into the world.

Before Obamacare, women buying insurance in the individual market had to pay an extra premium for maternity coverage. Now women cannot be charged more than men. We call that fairness.

The Republican Party’s proposed replacement for Obamacare would continue including maternity coverage as an essential health benefit, but it falls short for women in other ways. It would roll back an expansion of Medicaid. That’s a big blow to Americans living in poverty, including women who rely on Medicaid for prenatal services and other reproductive care.

The plan also would eliminate for a year funding for Planned Parenthood, a provider of women’s services and a lifeline for the poor. The GOP balks at providing funding for Planned Parenthood because it has abortion services. Government money is not used for abortions, even under existing law, but federal funding does cover birth control, cancer screening and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, all of which are provided by Planned Parenthood.

Additionally, the GOP plan prohibits federal tax credits from being used for any plan that covers abortions, which would be incentive for companies to drop such coverage. For conservatives, this could be the next best thing to reversing Roe v. Wade.

In short, the GOP plan would harm some women, especially those in poverty. Shimkus adds insult to that injury.

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