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Why is the bill so long?

hr 3200

In the next few days we’ll be examining the House and Senate Finance Committee health care reform bills.  It took a while for us to get through them– the House bill alone is 1017 pages long, and written in legislative language, which means a lot of passages like this:

1) Section 1833 of such Act (42 U.S.C. 1395l(m)) is amended by redesignating paragraph (4) as paragraph (5) and by inserting after paragraph (3) the following new paragraph:

‘(4) The provisions of this subsection shall not be taken into account in applying subsections (m) or (u) and any payment under such subsections shall not be taken into account in computing payments under this subsection.’

The Finance Committee bill is a little more manageable– only 220 pages.  That doesn’t mean there’s less stuff in the Finance Committee version though.  The Finance Committee releases a version called the Chairman’s Mark, which states in plain English what the current law is and how this new bill would change the law.  The committee votes on this plain English version, which is converted into legal language afterward.  When this happens, it will probably be just as long as the House version.

But a quick note on the length. The groups fighting health care reform are implying that the bill is so long because the government is either planning some radical takeover of the health care system or there’s some insidious provision buried deep in the bill that will let the government do God knows what (death panels, let Nancy Pelosi read your medical records, allow the government to take money out of your bank account without telling you, etc.).  You may have seen attack ads like this one:


The real reason the bill is so long?   Our health care system now is ridiculously complicated and there’s a lot wrong with it.  But the bill that Congress is discussing goes out of its way to reform the current system without fundamentally changing it.  To reform a complicated system piece by piece takes a lot more pages than starting over from scratch.  Most of the provisions aren’t that dramatic, and involve very specific changes to Medicare.

For example, Section 1141 of the House bill changes the types of wheelchairs that Medicare will purchase–  “complex rehabilitative power-driven wheelchairs of Category 3 or higher” instead of just “power driven wheelchairs.”  Section 1142 deals with the payment rule for providers of brachytherapy (it extends the current rule in case you were wondering).

Meanwhile, Rep. John Conyers bill, HR 626, which would replace our private insurance system with one government run single payer plan, is only 27 pages long.  The single payer bill that Bernie Sanders introduced in the Senate is only 172 pages.  And both of those bills are written in the same technical, legislative language that the current reform bill is written in.

As for secret, hidden provisions like death panels and giving the government access to your bank account- these claims are so dumb, I can’t believe we actually have to refute them, but  we will.  We’ll get into what’s actually in the bill in our next few posts, but in the meantime check out this article from factcheck.org debunking some of the craziest lies about the House health reform bill.

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