Healthcare Mumbo-jumbo

One of the biggest tools the President and congressional Democrats are using in the health care debate is the fact that the bill — H.R. 3200 — is written in such loose language that they can claim critics are lying about its terms, when all the critics are doing is reading the bill’s provisions as the bill allows them to.  For example, when they say abortion funding isn’t in the bill, that’s right. But because the bill doesn’t prohibit federal funding of abortion — given the interpretation that courts and bureaucrats have made of earlier laws — it’s perfectly correct to say that Obamacare will enable, by its government-funded insurance, provide for federally-funded abortions.

The same goes for their argument that health care rationing is not in the bill.  Or even paying for insurance and health care for illegal immigrants is not included in the bill.  

The Dems’ claims are comprehensively false and perpetrated to mask the intent and broad scope of the bill.

But how do they fill in the blanks?

Dr. Thomas Miller is one of the principal experts at hand.  I spoke with Miller, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, about how the Congressional can be turned into understandable English.  

Miller is a former senior health economist for the Congressional Joint Economic Committee (JEC), a lawyer and a man who studies health care policy and regulation — all while keeping his sense of humor.

“What is certainly true, in every page, they’ll put in general terms which rather than spell out exactly how limited things are going to be, we’ll just say this is a job for the Health Choices Commissioner,” Miller told HUMAN EVENTS.  

“What you have to imagine is over the next couple of years they have a general grant of power to carry out and implement what they didn’t want to have in specific language which would instantly get a reaction, it’ll always be more restrictive and tighter as done by regulation as opposed to what they signed off as a generality punting it over in the statute.  And we’ve seen this happen in other areas as well in standard employee and environmental legislation where you set some abstract standard and then it turns out that they shouldn’t have done that but it allows folks that really want to micromanage things to have full authority to pull it off.”

And there’s actually a numeric formula.

“Every law begets another hundred pages of legislation is a general rule for each section because they never want to spell it out or can’t spell it out and so they run around in circles doing it over the next year or two,” Miller said.

For instance, H.R. 3200 would establish the Center for Comparative Effectiveness Research to weigh the cost and benefits of the whole gamut of medical procedures and drugs.  There is no language in the bill that explicitly restricts the use of this economic data to ration health care based on age, cost and survivability rates, as they do in other countries with government-run health care systems.

“What you do is give a grant of authority, you create structure, you create some powers — now they aren’t unlimited in the early stuff, there are some limits to what’s there, and you saw in a number of the markups, and you will see amendments offered to try to put restrictions that say you can’t do this,” Miller said.  “Well those amendments are voted down pretty much across the board.  That already creates a legislative history suggesting that they didn’t want to restrict those actions in any way, when they’re trying to contest it legally.”

“Their later stages move whether you do it through proposed federal regulations which go out for comment then become part of the law — as long as you have the maximum authority to do it, without it being restricted, there’s a lot of wiggle room and elasticity in fleshing out and filling out further what was actually not voted on explicitly and didn’t draw intensity and opposition,” Miller continued.

By leaving out all of the specifics, the dirty work is left to dutiful bureaucrats who will be hired to fill all of those boxes in the chart put together by Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and Republican staff at the JEC in an effort to portray for the public the size and scope of this new government-run health care bureaucracy Democrats want to create.  That’s a lot of people working over the next two or so years to write thousands of pages of regulations.

“That’s the bootstrapping method to get more and more of an inroad,” Miller said.  “So, although they provide assurances in secondary discussions — oh, we don’t intend to do that — there is nothing in the legislation that explicitly prevents it from happening.  When you have power that is unchecked, and the opportunity to use it further, until there’s a large enough opposition to it, the effort will always be made to extend it that extra inch and that extra mile.”

And the same would work in the instance of abortion.  H.R. 3200 is silent on the issue.

“The nature of the abortion issue is you’re never going to have a provision saying that here’s exactly the funding for this many million abortions,” Miller said.  “You don’t have to do that.  As long as you say that there is this generic provision for coverage, and there’s nothing in that requirement for coverage that excludes abortion, there’s plenty of past precedent of people trying to argue for this whether it’s through the courts or other means, that therefore it’d be unfair to exclude this when we have other plans that do this, and again it’s a problem of uniformity, what is good for one or available has to be available for everyone else.  

“And so you drag in, within a short period of time, that this is just one more service covered which wasn’t restricted from the package,” Miller concluded.  “How dare you exclude it because there’s nothing in the law that says it should not be covered.”

The next time a Democrat tells you, “It’s not in the bill,” well, you know what to do.