Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Health Care in America: A Layman Reads the Health Care Bill - Part 1

To begin with, let's be clear on one thing. I am a legislation beginner. I've never read a piece of legislation in my life. I thought it would be fun to start with one of the most complex and polarizing pieces of legislation to come out of congress in about a decade or so. I'm a glutton for punishment, it seems.

Now that that's out of the way, let's get started.

The first thing one notices about the bill is the sheer size of it. I looked at a few different versions of it - mostly formatting changes - online before settling on my final choice, and none of them totaled fewer than 900 pages. Unfortunately, the shortest one I found was formatted so that the text was nearly microscopic, not to mention the margins were smaller, so an already daunting document was now made more so by the fact that each page was simply a wall of text nearly eight inches wide and 10 inches tall. Not nearly as inviting as my final decision - the 2,409 page behemoth. Much better.

After coming to terms with the enormity of the document, it becomes clear that this is more than just a large compilation of words and punctuation - it seems to have been deliberately designed to ward off even the most adventurous readers. This is the equivalent of Sleeping Beauty's castle to her potential suitors. Yep, I went Disney in the second post, and compared myself to a knight, and the Bill to a beautiful sleeping princess. Ok, so the metaphor isn't perfect, but the point remains - legislation is designed not to be read. I'm surely not the first person to realize this, but again, this is my first stab at legislation and I was just quite honestly taken aback by the simple un-readability of the stuff.

It starts with 17 full pages of Table of Contents. Seriously, 17 pages. And as if that wasn't enough, once the TOC is finished, we launch right into what appears to be a series of amendments to an entirely separate piece of legislation - from 1944. Not be alarmed, though, said amendments are for Title XXVII of the Public Health Service Act, which, as I understand, is an act from, again, 1944, which spelled out all legislation related to Public Health Service (if you're really interested, this appears to be a pretty good explanation). And so, the series of amendments tackle issues such as "Lifetime and Annual Limits [on benefits and coverage]," rescission, preventative health services, etc. Nothing to scoff at - just something to confuse the rookie (i.e. me).

After an evening of wading through the first several pages of the bill, I think that's about enough for tonight. To recap - we decided that the bill is enormous and confusing. I feel like a lot was accomplished here. Oh, and it starts out referring to other, previous pieces of legislation. But it only took me about 2 hours to figure that one out, so I feel pretty good about the whole thing. Next time, we'll begin actually reading the bill. It's gonna be great!


angiejean said...

Did you print the thing out, or are you reading online?

Joe said...

I downloaded it and saved it in PDF format on my computer. I've only printed out the odd segment to read when I've known I wouldn't be around a computer, but would have time to read.