Senator: “I think the health care bill is…blah, blah, blah.”
Reporter: “Yes, Senator, but have you read it?”
As an attorney, I thought I should read the senate health care bill. I found out it’s not as easy as one might think.
First of all, why would I spend my time on this? Health care issues figure prominently in my practice – the majority of my clients use Medicare because they are 65 or older. As an elder care attorney, I spend time with families of older people who must at least consider a nursing home stay at some point of their lives. Medicaid pays for two-thirds of nursing home stays in the United States. And Medicaid is affected by both the house and senate health care reform bills. So reading the proposed law is not simply an academic exercise. When I set out to read the bill I was surprised at what I found.
I googled “senate health care bill.” A number of media outlets had a link to the full text of the senate bill. When I clicked on the links I was able to see the bill on my page. For older folks, at least, its not easy to read entire documents online. So I clicked on the download button so I could save the bill to my computer. Problem: I could only download the PDF file – on CNN, Washington Times, and Atlanta Journal Constitution – if I signed up for an account, which requires revealing my email address and other information. Many older Americans I work with are skeptical, if not downright afraid, to reveal personal information. I don’t know anyone who would have done this.
Since I didn’t want to create any accounts, I thought to go directly to the U.S. Senate website. There was lots of nifty information, but I looked on the senate site for the senate bill for about five minutes but gave up before I found the full text.
At this point I stopped looking. Maybe I’ll go back and read the bill online without downloading it. I might also find the bill on a professional site, such as NAELA or the State Bar of Michigan. So this brings me back to the original question: have you read it? No, I (still) haven’t. But maybe the real question for older and poorer folks who are less likely to use the Internet should be, “How can I read the bill that could so greatly affect my life?”