Sunday, October 4, 2009

Post Pending Health Care Reform Legislation Online and Tap the Wisdom of Crowds: A DMCB Top Ten

The Disease Management Care Blog understands but respectfully disagrees with Senator Carper’s (D-Del) reluctance to a) personally read or b) post on-line the legislative language of the final health reform bill that will emerge from the Senate Finance Committee.

He cautions that it’s full of confusing, arcane and incomprehensible gibberish that it's so obtuse that even fulltime professional legislators like him need to have it deciphered into plain English. As a result, he believes posting the beast online for 72 hours prior to a vote is an exercise in futility. He argues that America's citizenry don’t have access to staffers who can wade through all the gobbledygook and they will therefore be unable to fully digest its contents. He thinks it’s simply beyond the ability of any amateur voter to understand it all. Instead, the Finance Committee has elected to be helpful by making a ‘conceptual’ summary available to the populace.

The Senator is undoubtedly correct about the obtuseness of the legislative language. The DMCB also appreciates his self-portrayal as a regular guy who is one of us. He should also get credit for telling it like it is, even if he’s giving the viewer the mistaken impression of being amateurish, lazy or lacking the core skill set one would expect of a professional lawmaker. Unfortunately for the Senator and the rest of his colleagues, he’s also giving us voters the impression that our legislators are being purposefully obtuse. After all, it’s those last minute insertions of an 'or' in place of an 'and' in a section defining coverage or payment that can make all the difference down the road for the special interests and their lawyers.

The DMCB is not beimg naïve, however. Legislative language is a necessary evil because there is no other way to be precise. What's more, U.S. Senators want to do the right thing, correct?

There’s a bigger problem.

The problem is that the Senator and his colleagues don’t recognize the huge potential of the wisdom of crowds when it comes to illuminating legislative contents. This phenomenon's been harnessed for complex issues like U.S – Iranian relations, derivatives, computer programming and consumer products. The DMCB is very confident that the world's (and it means that literally) interested, decentralized and distributed reader-interpreters with collective backgrounds in law, medicine, policy-making and public health are quite up the task of combing through the legislative language and coming up with insights unavailable anywhere else. In fact, Senator Carper should use P&G’s business approach and ask for insights on the bill that won't otherwise be apparent to him or his expert staff. He'd be a better Senator for it.

So, with apologies to Mr. Letterman and his disappointed fan base, the DMCB is happy to offer up this Top Ten List of why the Finance Committee's legislation should be posted on line in its entirety:

10. If posting it won’t help, it certainly shouldn’t hurt for the same reasons.

9. When reporters ask if you’ve read the bill and you haven't, you can look Senatorial by saying you’ve 'posted it online.'

8. When Republicans ask if you’ve read the bill and you haven't, you can duck the question by rhetorically asking if they’ve posted an on-line version that they haven't read either.

7. It’ll give the impression of democracy in action, even if you know the details are really under the control of a secret cabal of over-lawyered staffers.

6. Everyone knows that links to pending legislation are an exciting way to liven up any web site (the DMCB spouse can barely contain herself when this happens).

5. You won’t have to say things like ‘I’m glad you asked that!’ or ‘That’s a very good question!’ while being interviewed about having read pending legislation.

4. Posting legislation on-line may actually help you read some of it, like when you’re on a train between D.C. and Wilmington with nothing else to do.

3. By posting it with an error, you can play ‘Find the Typo!’ with your constituents.

2. On-line: hip, connected, savvy, modern and re-elected. Off-line: old, paper based, slow uncool and earning a living with the likes of former Senator Daschle.

1. The Wisdom of Crowds will give you insights unavailable anywhere else.

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