How does insurance work? Ask a woman

The most interesting thing about asking a question — especially a stupid question — is that there are plenty of people who’ll gladly answer it, and make you look even more foolish in the process.

Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., asked a silly one at yesterday’s House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing, while simultaneously displaying a fundamental ignorance of how insurance works.

(Video link)

Shimkus asked why men should have to pay for health insurance coverage for women.

It’s not the weirdest thing he’s ever said — that would be his contention that capping carbon emissions would steal food from plants.

But Shimkus gave voice to a common theme among opponents of health insurance coverage: If they don’t personally use it, why should people have to pay for it?

Who’d like to take that one?

How about you, Heidi Stevens of the Chicago Tribune?

Because lots of men have sex with women.

Because a lot of that sex produces babies.

Because men and women have an equal stake in those babies being born healthy.

Because all of us, even when we’re not the parents of those babies, have a stake in those babies being born healthy.

Because healthy babies, ideally, turn into healthy children.

At New York Magazine, Clare Landsbaum, says it’s pretty simple, really. The law’s writers didn’t want insurance companies to discriminate against women.

And it goes both ways — under Obamacare, women pay for basic services that benefit men such as prostate cancer tests and a preventative service that checks older men who have smoked for abdominal aortic aneurysms. As Doyle reminded Shimkus during the hearing, “There’s no such thing as à la carte insurance, John.” In the immortal words of our president, who knew health care could be so complicated?


  • MrE85

    One of the cable news outlets asked a dozen or so lawmakers, all with the same letter after their name as Rep. Shimkus, if they could say how many of their constituents are currently covered under the Affordable Care Act.

    None could.

    A trick question to embarrass members of the majority party on-camera? Perhaps. There was no test group of lawmakers from the minority party asked the same question, so we don’t really know if they would do any better. I don’t suspect they would.

    It did, however, make me wonder how much lawmakers really know about the people they are supposed to represent, or what consequences, intended or otherwise, their votes on key issues have back home.

    • Not even waiting for a CBO assessment to answer the question. But the pols aren’t really that interested in the answer.

      Was interesting to hear Rep. Paulsen on with Wurz this morning. He’s on Ways and Means.

      I thought his point on Medicaid was interesting. He noted it would be around for two years and then “slowly unwind”, which is the term, I guess, for taking health care away. He said they could find coverage “more suitable for them as patients.”

      • MrE85

        I noted that Cathy seemed to have some idea of the number of people covered in his district, as well as having a view of the major health and medical organizations (including my own) that are skeptical of the GOP plan.
        It would be nice if every member of Congress would be given the lowest level of health care coverage available through the government. No exceptions. Perhaps then, the people most at need really would get “more suitable coverage.”
        I used to work for the health insurance industry. You don’t want to leave it up to them to fix.
        Trust me on this one.

        • rallysocks

          The double whammy of the Trump Administration, Paul Ryan and the insurance companies ‘fixing’ this is truly frightening to me.

          I’ve been thinking a lot about the comment that Junebug made yesterday regarding Indivisible. I like the show, but yeah…not really understanding the Trump supporters. I was further flummoxed by Morning Edition’s trip back to Charlottesville to re-visit a group of conservatives that meet monthly for breakfast to talk politics as they are a ‘red dot in a blue city’. I was thinking, “Aha! Perhaps some insight!” No. Same short-sighted, reactionary and and misinformed talking points that I can find on Facebook. And whooboy, did I run across one last night regarding ACA. Mainly the belief that 1) People are responsible for their own health care and 2) would have the money to pay for it if if they were employed (having more than one job and getting training to better themselves) and not 3) wasting what little money they have on drugs, alcohol and cigarettes and would 4) not have kids they can’t afford.

          If only it were that easy.

          • Oh, lordy, that NPR segment was just so precious. I just can’t get enough of Washington folks going down South, stopping at coffee shop, and giving racists and bigots 10 minutes to spew — today’s was “If you let those people (Muslims) in, they’re going to infect the country” — while lamenting that they’re so very tired of being called racists and bigots, and then treating the whole segment as if this is some sort of revealing insight into “America.”

            It would be nice if the network wouldn’t feel the need to stop at the morning Klan rally in its misguided attempt to discover what “america” is thinking.

          • rallysocks

            I shouted at my radio a LOT during that segment this morning. On the plus side, I didn’t have to hunt for the cat to bring her downstairs–she gave me a look and went down of her own accord.

          • AmiSchwab

            i shout at my newspaper and internet everyday.

          • rallysocks

            I have become a very shouty person of late. Better than being a stabby person I guess.

          • Sam M

            I’ve been saying this for a while but there are a lot of places even here in MN you can hear the exact same dialogue I’m afraid. My wife heard it last night in conferences.

          • Rob

            Yup. Lazy and pointless journalism, mos def. It’s my understanding that Toadsuck, Arkansas is the next stop for the NPR crew. Hope the reporters don’t miss seeing the nearby sign that proclaims: “Diversity is just code for white genocide.”

      • wjc

        On Medicaid, That is unless the most conservative members get their way and pull the plug on the Medicaid expansion this year or next year as they want.

  • KariBemidji

    Dudes. You have to get over your instinct to cut, defund, and eliminate anything related to women’s health. You do know how babies are made right? And how they come out? We already have the highest infant mortality rate of any industrialized country. Let’s not make it worse.

    • RBHolb

      “You do know how babies are made right? And how they come out?”

      Frankly, with the current crowd, I wouldn’t want to jump to any conclusions.

      • KariBemidji

        Good old immaculate conception.

        • Rob

          I love that euphemism for divine rape; I don’t recall the bible noting that Mary assented…

      • Jeff

        I don’t think the science is conclusive on that yet.

        • RBHolb

          Absolutely! Teach the controversy!

    • Veronica

      We have the highest maternal mortality rate. How we fare with infant mortality rates depends on the definition of “infant” and viability.

      The United States also has the highest preterm birth rate, a number that’s been getting worse, even in MN.

      If they weren’t so darn serious about their “plan”, it’d be laughable at how ridiculous it is.

  • johnepeacock

    The whole concept of insurance is that the collective risk of the group is lower than what is paid out. It’s the entire basis of what insurance is.

    • Rob

      Yet it’s a concept that Paul Ryan clearly doesn’t understand.

  • Mike Worcester

    Consumer Reports, not exactly a partisan outlet, took a run at this question in November 2013, and had this gem:
    So, as a middle-aged childless man you resent having to pay for
    maternity care or kids’ dental care. Shouldn’t turnabout be fair play?
    Shouldn’t pregnant women and kids be able to say, “Fine, but in that
    case why should we have to pay for your Viagra, or prostate cancer
    tests, or the heart attack and high blood pressure you are many times
    more likely to suffer from than we are?” Once you start down that road,
    it’s hard to know where to stop. If you slice and dice risks, eventually
    you don’t have a risk pool at all, and the whole idea of insurance
    falls apart.

  • Mike

    It’s easy to take potshots at ignoramuses like this one, and far be it from me to spoil anyone’s fun in this respect. However, if we’re going to have a debate about why healthcare is so expensive and dysfunctional in the United States, we have to start with the corruption of the political system in general.

    Who funds Rep. Shimkus? Well, the pharmaceutical industry is at the top of his list of donors, according to Blue Cross/Blue Shield is his single largest contributor. So is it that he doesn’t understand how insurance works, or that he has an incentive to waste time asking inane questions? I don’t know, of course, but the more time that’s spent on his misdirection is time that’s not spent on any substantive debate about healthcare. And that may suit Blue Cross/Blue Shield just fine.

    • Ummm, no we don’t. I think the general hatred of women is a fine place to start. Though I understand that many men don’t get why.

      • Mike

        Well, then it’s just adolescent jeering, not serious reporting.

        • Yes, that’s the whole problem with systemic bias against women. They’re so adolescent.


          • Mike

            I’m not arguing that he’s not appalling. That’s true of many politicians. It’s just that this sort of “Person X is mean to Group Y” media exchange often obscures the more systemic issues. It’s obviously very relevant that his top contributions are from healthcare companies.

          • Rob

            I’d call sex discrimination systemic.

          • Bingo. Political contributions allow misogyny to become policy. But the REAL problem is the misogyny.

      • Mike

        Don’t worry; our lack of understanding is more than compensated by the virtue signalling of others.

        • Decaf, man. It works.

          • Mike

            Physician, heal thyself.

      • Khatti

        “The general hatred of women”? That’s just a bit broad, isn’t it?

        • Rob


  • lindblomeagles

    I’ve said it for 10 years, a lot on News Cut, and am not going to stop saying it until the Republican Party changes. The GOP isn’t interested in anybody in this country, EXCEPT white Christian wealthy males. They’ve LITERALLY RUN year after year against women’s rights, minorities, immigrants, low income earners, union workers, government workers, children, GLBT folks, and, frankly, against the middle class. They’re not fond of old people either, as they have constantly warred against Medicaid and Medicare since George W. Bush ran for President in 2000. Say I’m over generalizing if you want to. Say I don’t understand the Republican Party if you don’t like what I said. You can even say liberals are bigoted, not Republicans. But, the cold hard fact of the matter is the Republican Party can’t stand right to choose, women’s health issues, anything having to do with affirmative action, path to American citizenship, more power to labor unions, immigrants living in American communities, gay weddings, transgender bathrooms, Muslims, and the list goes on. I’m not surprised this Illinois Republican said this because Republicans have been making these statements for a decade. What’s shocking is we keep acting like Republicans are shocking. We absolutely refuse to believe this is who they are.

    • Rob

      Well said. BTW, I’m not sure who the “we” is to whom you’re referring; I’ve always believed the Republicans are exactly who they appear to be.

  • dave

    “There’s no such thing as à la carte insurance, John.” = = = There WAS before the ACA. You could choose mental health coverage, chemical dependency coverage, maternity benefits etc.

    The ACA said cover everything for everybody but the result was the healthy didn’t want to pay for more than they needed, the pools shrunk to just sick and subsidized and insurance companies lost money.

    Insurance companies would have made more money by offering a rich plan that never said no, but they knew it wouldn’t sell due to high premiums. The ACA just learned that.