iStock.com/KatarzynaBialasiewiczGiven the current administration's ongoing attack on women's rights, it's no surprise that gender discrimination is rampant on many levels among lawmakers. Even so, one Republican's recent comments are raising serious eyebrows for their misogynistic implications: During the House Energy and Commerce Committee's recent session debating the Republicans' Obamacare revision, Rep. John Shimkus (Ill.) voiced his objections to the Affordable Care Act mandate requiring insurance to cover pregnancy and childbirth because, according to him, men shouldn't have to pay for prenatal care.
It's a criticism opponents of Obamacare have brought up before, but there was reportedly still a discernible disturbance in the room when Shimkus responded to a question from Democratic Rep. Mike Doyle (Pa.) about exactly which mandate he had an issue with:
"What about men having to purchase prenatal care?" Shimkus asked.
Followed by, "I'm just ... is that not correct? And should they?"
You've really got to see this uncomfortable exchange to believe it:
Wow. Should men have to purchase prenatal care? Well, in a word, yes -- and the fact that Shimkus even asked in the first place shows that he doesn't understand how insurance works. As insurance expert and columnist Nancy Metcalf explained back in 2013 in Consumer Reports:
Health insurance, like all insurance, works by pooling risks. The healthy subsidize the sick, who could be somebody else this year and you next year. Those risks include any kind of health care a person might need from birth to death -- prenatal care through hospice. No individual is likely to need all of it, but we will all need some of it eventually.
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So yes, men end up paying for a plan that covers prenatal care when pregnancy is a physical impossibility for them, but women also end up paying for a plan that covers prostate exams and Viagra. (Somehow we don't hear anyone complaining about that, do we?)
Never mind the fact that if Shimkus is complaining about men having to purchase prenatal care, that pretty much means he doesn't believe fathers are responsible for the medical costs associated with bringing their children into the world. And that's a load of bullcrap.
And as for the suggestion that women should have to buy specific plans that cover pregnancy and childbirth, well, some plans already tried that ... and it was a mess. Before Obamacare required insurers to include maternity care as a "basic health benefit," women who became unexpectedly pregnant would often discover that prenatal services weren't covered under their plans.
Even worse, when they tried to switch plans, many were denied coverage because pregnancy was considered a "preexisting condition." Other women were overcharged for maternity coverage or subjected to waiting periods of over a year. (The ACA made denying maternity care illegal and forced insurance companies to charge women and men the same prices for comparable coverage, making this kind of gender-specific price gouging impossible.)
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All of the above facts make the objections raised by Shimkus (and others like him) essentially groundless. But why don't they understand that? If Shimkus truly doesn't have a handle on how health care functions, then certainly he shouldn't be allowed to make decisions that could affect the health care of millions of Americans.
But maybe he does get it. Maybe all of them do. Maybe these lawmakers understand perfectly how insurance is supposed to work and know that the changes they want to make are going to hurt people, hurt women, but they just don't care. The well-being of millions of Americans just isn't as important as the billions of dollars in tax breaks for the wealthy that the American Health Care Act will bring if it passes. This is putting the lives of women and children at risk to profit a portion of the population that's already profiting greatly. And this is why we need to keep marching, and striking, and protesting, and making our voices heard. We cannot accept this treatment. The cost is too great.