The House is about to consider H.R. 3362, a bill that would require the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services post weekly reports on the public health insurance exchange enrollment effort.
Maybe someone needs to amend the bill and make the report shorter and easier to compile. The bill looks on the surface as if it might be one of those doomed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) exchange bills that pass in the House with every possible Republican vote and no Democratic votes, then die in the Senate.
But, seriously, if this is one of those doomed PPACA-related bills, why?
If this bill does die, why the heck doesn’t HHS just work with the author to come up with a more practical template for the report, then just go and produce the report, whether President Obama signs the bill or not?
If finding the cash and money to create the report is the problem, why not figure out some way to have the Congressional Budget Office or the Government Accountability Office do the report?
Why is HHS goading Republicans in the House into going to the barricades to demand the kinds of information that true blue Democratic officials at some state-run exchanges have been releasing every week since October?
I’m supposed to wear two hats here, as a reporter and a “blogger” (aka, a columnist, but with more typos).
In theory, as a reporter, I have no opinions. As a blogger, I have to find some opinions, quickly, whether I actually have any or not.
But, of course, I obviously have plenty of implicit opinions.
I think that I exist, and that you exist, and that, even if we don’t exist, assuming that we all exist and having a job is a lot more comfortable than acting based on the opposite assumption and ending up on the sidewalk.
I assume that free markets are, generally, a lot more honest than other mechanisms for distributing goods and services, but that maybe it’s OK for governments, nonprofit groups, feudal lords, etc. to get involved from time to time, depending on the circumstances.
I assume that some insurance must be good, and that plenty of agents and brokers are nice people who know what they’re talking about and ought to be treated well.
I assume that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) exchange program will work fine in some ways and be a total mess in some ways, just because that’s how the universe is.
And I assume that honesty and openness are generally good things, in and of themselves. I assume that people who are a lot more prone to hide what they’re doing than other, comparable people might have something to hide.
On the one hand, I think the reality is probably that the HHS folks are tired, overloaded, scared of House investigators and lawyered up.
HHS officials — some of whom might very well be career civil service workers who, privately, hate PPACA with a passion and are just trying to do their jobs, even though they loathe the exchanges as much as any health insurance broker does — may feel as if they have to be stingy with information, for fear of releasing some innocent, unlawyered disclosure about a HealthCare.gov typo that will lead to a trial for high treason.
On the other hand, the exchanges are supposed to be exchanges. How patient would the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission be with the New York Stock Exchange if NYSE officials posted stock sales information only on a monthly basis?
On the third hand, maybe HHS policymakers have secretly concluded that transparency and competition are damaging to the health care system and ought to be rooted out. If so, maybe HHS could just hire one big, secretive entity to manage the whole shebang. I hear North Korea has some time on its hands…