Swelling the Ranks of the Uninsured

Apparently, the portion of the HCR bill dealing with the Congressional health care plan was so poorly drafted that Congresscritters and their staffers may have been booted off their cushy plan the moment Obama signed the bill into law:

The law apparently bars members of Congress from the federal employees health program, on the assumption that lawmakers should join many of their constituents in getting coverage through new state-based markets known as insurance exchanges.

But the research service found that this provision was written in an imprecise, confusing way, so it is not clear when it takes effect.

The new exchanges do not have to be in operation until 2014. But because of a possible “drafting error,” the report says, Congress did not specify an effective date for the section excluding lawmakers from the existing program.

Under well-established canons of statutory interpretation, the report said, “a law takes effect on the date of its enactment” unless Congress clearly specifies otherwise. And Congress did not specify any other effective date for this part of the health care law.

Thanks for this bit of comedy go to Chuck Grassley, who introduced the original amendment, and Baucus' Finance Committee as a whole, who tinkered with it. Bravo, folks! Well done!

While I imagine we'll get rote wailing of "They don't even know what's in the bill!" from the usual suspects (EDIT: I don't need to imagine it) I for one am thrilled with this development. No one should have been under any illusions that the bill would require tinkering down the road after it collided with reality, and its actual effects were revealed.

A screw-up like this should hopefully give Congress a bit of incentive to stay on top of it, and make those necessary tweaks in a timely fashion.

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