Health reform’s hasty passage

The House should have spent more time with health care reform.

On Saturday night, a little after 11 p.m., the United States House of Representatives passed H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act. After the vote, President Barack Obama said, âÄúTonight, in a historic vote, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would finally make real the promise of quality, affordable health care for the American people.âÄù âÄúBarely passedâÄù would be much more appropriate, given the final vote was 220-215, a margin of only five votes. Bipartisan opposition to the bill included 39 Democrats voting against the reforms, with only one Republican coming across the fence to vote in support of it. When dealing with legislation as important and voluminous as health reform, a narrow âÄúvictoryâÄù like this is a disappointment, pointing to legislation that nearly half of our elected representatives could not support. A last-minute amendment restricting the coverage of abortion even proved necessary to garner the support of conservative Democrats, against the outcries of liberals in the House. The 2,000 pages of policy jargon are nearly impossible for any layperson to decipher, and broad summaries on why this bill should pass are not sufficient for any legislator or his or her constituents when making decisions like this. Worse, it is impossible, given its timeline, that our federal legislators have even read the bill in any thorough or thoughtful way. In early October, Obama pointed to an âÄúunprecedented consensusâÄù on health reform, but now that a package is on the table, the American people are denied the amount of time practically necessary to consent to it.