A Republican Congressman tried, but failed, to compare Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to the North Korean dictator during a House Energy & Commerce Health Subcommittee hearing on Wednesday afternoon.
The comment came during an exchange about the effect of preventive services on health care premiums under the Affordable Care Act. Sebelius disputed Rep. John Shimkus’ (R-IL) claim that offering prevention benefits without cost sharing would increase beneficiaries’ health care expenses. “There is no free lunch, Madam Secretary!,” Shimkus charged. “When you mandate coverage, it is rolled directly on premiums, premiums increase, that is paying for these services!” Sebelius responded by arguing that investing in prevention could decrease costs down the road.
Shimkus grew visibly agitated by her explanation and tried to compare Sebelius to the leaders of North Korea. But rather than referencing the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Shimkus likened the Secretary to the “Republic of Korea” or South Korea, America’s ally in the region. “Alright, I got it. We’re just going to agree to disagree. It’s like talking to the Republic of Korea or something,” he said.
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A Democratic congressman loudly objected, saying that Shimkus should at least allow Sebelius to answer his questions. “I do not have to allow her to answer the question!” Shimkus screamed in reply.
Graphic by Adam Peck.
Shimkus’ claim that free preventative care will hike Americans’ health care expenses is also dubious. HHS has estimated that covering these services for free would raise premiums by one to two percent at most — a projection that insurance companies like Anthem have confirmed. Such a modest rise in premiums is unlikely to outweigh the benefits of patients no longer being forced to pay a co-pay every time they go to the doctor for a preventative care visit.