Does Reading The Bill Really Matter?

USA Today makes a few interesting points

There’s a growing movement at town hall meetings and online to make sure members of Congress read the entire health care reform bill before they vote on it, and to make it available to the public at least 72 hours before a vote.

“Read the bill” is typically another way of saying “not so fast,” but there’s no denying the idea’s appeal. Too many bills have been rushed to a vote in Congress with too little time for scrutiny.

Well, no, not really. What we mean is that Congress Critters should actually read the legislation they vote for.

There’s just one hitch: You could read the entire health bill and still not have a very good idea of how the plan would work. Legislative language is notoriously, necessarily murky. 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) … “

Do you understand that? Of course, there is actually more to that section, which, incidently, happens to be the main section enforcing end of life counseling in the House version of the health care bill. I guess it does exist. Which is why Congress should take its time so that it understands exactly what it is voting on.

Of course, there are a few more problems, one of them being that the bills themselves are often missing specifics. Both Waxman-Markey (cap and tax) and the House health system bill speak in massive generalities, leaving the details to be hammered out by others later. So, a public option is created: what are the co-pays, what is the monthly cost to the consumer, are there caps, what does it cover, etc? How close to a tree can you build a porch on your house or install a hot tub? What insurance plans will be part of the government approved ones? How much CO2 output will be allowed under the permits? And so on. The bills bring up more questions then they answer.

Radley Balko at Reason brings up another problem

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.”

And even many of the politicians who helped craft the bill have little understanding of what is in it. But “we’re from the government, trust us.” Followed by

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