Friday, March 19, 2010

Health care reform zero hour

For someone who both a) cares a ton about healthcare reform, and b) works in a newsroom, I've been remarkably out of the loop on the whole Washington slog this past year.

Basically, I followed the details of some of the early proposals, but things were changing so quickly I lost the motivation to keep up. The best quote I've heard about Washington's legislative process came from an SBA spokesman last year, when my reporter pressed him for comment on stuff being talked about for inclusion in the not-yet-passed Recovery Act stimulus bill: "You don't give farm animals names if they're just going to get slaughtered. We're taking the same philosophy with these provisions."

That's how I came to view health reform: Call me when there's a bill about to go to the President to sign. Until then, everything in it is in quantum flux and not yet real.

So imagine my surprise when suddenly this week everything started moving super-fast and dominating the news and journalists began assembling for an all-day "this is it" coverageathon on Sunday. My reaction: Wait, what? What's happening? Is this going to be a really final bill?

Here's the best, clearest description I've seen (hat tip to Neil for the link) of the process now unfolding: from the Wall Street Journal, "Health-Care Bill's Final Act: A Look at Possible Scenarios." The gist: Yes, this is really it. By Monday, we could have new law.

What's in that law? That's what I'm trying to find out next. (It'll be what the Senate passed on Dec. 24, but I haven't delved into the details of that bill yet.)