Things can get pretty loopy when Congress debates a bill for more than 12 hours straight — Wednesday night, for example, the House Ways and Means Committee featured a debate about taxing ice cream and sunlight. Over at the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the other panel getting a first crack at the GOP's health-care bill, the debate lasted 27 hours, and while there was no discussion of solar taxation, Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) and Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) did have a little debate about à la carte health insurance.
The Affordable Care Act, which Republicans are proposing to replace, requires health insurance plans to cover certain core benefits, like hospital care, prescription drugs, and pregnancy and childbirth. Republicans were complaining about ObamaCare's "mandates," and Doyle asked GOP committee members to name one mandate they take issue with. “What about men having to purchase prenatal care?” Shimkus offered. "Is that not correct? And should they?"
This is not the first time House Republicans have asked about men having to buy maternity coverage, The Washington Post notes, and it isn't always men asking. Nancy Metcalf, an insurance expert and Consumer Reports columnist, answered the question in 2013:
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.
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. [Consumer Reports]
Metcalf's answer also, incidentally, would have been helpful reading for House Speaker Paul Ryan, who said this about ObamaCare on Thursday.
Health care, as President Trump says, is an "unbelievably complex subject."