Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius appeared before Congress Wednesday to testify on the failed implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
And although Wednesday’s House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee hearing was mostly a retread of previously discussed points on the botched Obamacare rollout, there were two notable moments involving lawmakers from both sides of the aisle.
Republican: Korea Leads to Shouting
Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) during Wednesday’s hearing repeatedly pressed Sebelius to clarify whether abortive services offered through Obamacare would increase the cost of health insurance premiums.
Sebelius failed to answer the congressman's questions, prompting him to mutter, “It’s like talking to … the Republic of Korea, or something.”
A few of Rep. Shimkus’s colleagues were unimpressed with his remark and a fairly heated back-and-forth took broke out, the Illinois congressman refusing to back down.
It wasn't until Shinkmus was instructed by the committee chair to "suspend" that things finally calmed down:
It should be noted that the Republic of Korea is an ally of the United States. The communist part of Korea is called the People’s Republic of Korea.
Democrat: “Freedom” and “Lousy Insurance”
Congressman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) said during the hearing that it’s not “freedom” for Americans to be able to keep their so-called “junk” insurance policies.
His remarks were made in reference to the GOP’s characterization of Obamacare as a “disaster.”
“It’s just the opposite,” he said, adding that President Barack Obama’s “if you like your insurance, you can keep it” promise has been misinterpreted by his opponents.
“The president didn’t say that if you had a lousy health insurance policy that didn’t cover everything, that he was suggesting that insurance companies continue to sell it and, therefore, you buy it,” the New Jersey congressman said.
Responding to a Republican colleague who said consumers should be “free” to keep their plans, Pallone said, “I don’t think the president meant that you should have the freedom to keep a health insurance plan that didn’t include hospitalization."
“If you want it, his executive order says you can do it, but I think it’s absurd to keep arguing over those lousy, skeletal plans,” he said.
For her part, Kathleen Sebelius praised HHS’ recent announcement that roughly 364,682 consumers have signed up for private coverage as of Nov. 30.
“I don’t think there is any question that the flawed launch of the website put a damper on people’s enthusiasm,” Sebelius told members of Congress. “Having said that, we are seeing very, very positive trends. We are seeing lots of people re-engage.”
The number announced Wednesday is well below the administration’s original estimates of 1.2 million signups by the end of November.
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