(CNSNews.com) – In a contentious exchange with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius over her repeated claims that mandated health services do not raise costs for consumers in the form of higher insurance premiums, Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) waved his hand in apparent surrender and said to her, “It’s like talking to the Republic of Korea or something.”
Shimkus apparently was referring to North Korea, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, where the Communist rulers there spout pro-government propaganda that is then glowingly reported by state-run media.
The exchange with Sebelius took place Wednesday morning during a House Energy and Science health subcommittee hearing entitled, "PPACA (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) Implementation Failures: What's Next?"
Shimkus started with a point about the number of people supposedly now enrolled in an Obamacare health insurance plan. Sebelius had told the subcommittee that 364,682 people had signed up as of Nov. 30, which is far short of the administration’s earlier forecasts.
Shimkus explained that there is a difference between being enrolled and actually having a tangible health care plan with an analogy: He said that Amazon.com counts a book sold when it is paid for by the consumer. It does not count books in a cart or on a wish list as books sold.
With that in mind, “Our concern is that this 364,000 number is fraudulent because it’s not those who have purchased plans yet,” said Shimkus.
The congressman then asked Sebelius to return to the subcommittee in the near-future with the numbers of people who have actually paid for their Obamacare plans.
When Sebelius started to discuss the number of enrollments again, Shimkus shook his head and said, "This is why we're frustrated, because we just don't get the truth out of you."
As his questioning continued, Shimkus said he had spoken with a “Democratic state senator from my state of Illinois who is on the Insurance Commission. And he said, and I quote, ‘mandated preventive services are laid directly on premium prices.’ Now, you cannot say, as you have numerous times, that these preventative care services are quote/unquote free-of-charge, can you?”
Sebelius said, “They are free to the consumer, yes sir.”
Shimkus fired back, “They are not. There is no free lunch, Madame Secretary. If the premiums increase because of the mandated coverage -- based upon a state senator from the state of Illinois, a Democrat who is in oversight of the insurance of the state of Illinois and he says, when you mandate coverage it’s wrote directly on the premiums -- [and] as the premiums increase, that’s paying for the services. You cannot say that these are free of charge.”
Sebelius answered, “Again, consumers will not have a co-pay or deductible and I think –“
Shimkus: “Will you admit that they will have a higher premium?”
Sebelius: “No, I do not. I think what a lot of actuaries will tell you is, if you have preventive care, and prevent a more costly hospital stay, cancer [treatment] –“
Shimkus then rolled his eyes and waved his right hand, saying, “All right, I got it. We’re just going to agree to disagree. It’s like talking to the Republic of Korea or something.”