Jeb Bladine: Americans in dark on health care law

Our national attention suffers from a scattershot effect that features one high-profile news cycle after another. We leap from travel ban appeals to climate change treaties; from Russian hacking to deadly shootings; from petty presidential tweets to international war and terrorism; from obstruction of justice to North Korean nuclear weapons.

To name a few.

All of these distractions are providing camouflage for a pretty important activity in Washington, D.C., as reported this week by NBC News:

“The Senate is closing in on a health care bill that could affect coverage for tens of millions of Americans and overhaul an industry that makes up one-sixth of the economy. Only one problem: Almost no one knows what’s in it.”


Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

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Reporters Benjy Sarlin and Leigh Ann Caldwell didn’t shed much light on the subject, but they did pass along a few interesting quotes:

Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.: “They don’t want the American people to see how poorly they would do under this bill.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY: “We’ll let you see the bill when we finally release it … nobody is hiding the ball here.”

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-MO, when invited by a Republican leader to pass along her ideas: “We have no idea what’s being proposed.”

We do know the policies built into the American Health Care Act, which the House of Representatives approved last month in similar opaque fashion. That bill was declared dead on arrival at the Senate, but everything since has occurred behind closed doors.

As NBC reported Thursday: “There are no hearings with health experts, industry leaders, and patient advocacy groups to weigh in where the public can watch their testimony or where Democrats can offer amendments.”

Ultimately, the Senate will have to release the text of proposed legislation, not that many members of Congress actually will read it before voting. And remember, seven years after President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, we still are trying to decipher some of the meanings of that law.

Some suggest the extraordinary prospect of a Senate vote before its June 30 break. But that wouldn’t be a total shock, since the House voted just 24 hours after finally making its health care bill public.

It’s a tit for tat world in Washington: Democrats rammed the Affordable Care Act down our throats without a single Republican vote, and now it appears Republicans may return the favor.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.


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