Why "Reading the Bill" Won't Matter


USA Today notes that even forcing legislators to read the health care legislation in the House probably wouldn't do much good. The bill is so bogged down with bureaucrat-eze, few of them are likely to understand it.

Take the opening lines of one of the bill's most controversial sections, the one about voluntary "end of life" counseling:

"SEC. 1233. ADVANCE CARE PLANNING CONSULTATION. (a) Medicare. — (1) IN GENERAL. — Section 1861 of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1395x) is amended — (A) in subsection (s)(2) — (i) by striking 'and' at the end of subparagraph (DD); (ii) by adding 'and' at the end of subparagraph (EE); and (iii) adding at the end the following new subparagraph: '(FF) advance care planning consultation (as defined in subsection (hhh)(1) … "

Complex bills like these are generally written with heavy input from the lobbyists and interest groups who have so much at stake in them. The public doesn't find out exactly what the implication of striking "and" from subparapraph (DD) might be until the bill has already been implemented.

This is another argument in favor of posting bills in their final form online for a considerable period of time before voting on them, or before they're signed into law. Crowdsourcing by people who have experience wading through the parentheses and em-dashes might at least help decipher some of the mess to get a clearer picture of what it all means. As it stands, we're left with the few politicians who helped craft the bill saying, "Just trust us."

That rarely works out well.