Inside Washington: Look Beyond the Bill Title
The text of legislation matters. It sounds like a simple premise – and it is – but all too often lawmakers focus on the bill’s title and stated purpose without bothering to read the legislative text. In fact, a bill’s title frequently leads one to believe the bill is doing the complete opposite of what it will actually do. Remember, the official title of Obamacare is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
It happens on big bills and small bills alike. Take the so-called Healthcare Truth and Transparency Act. The Heritage Foundation’s Diane Katz explained the title “masks malignant intentions as benign.”
Katz explained the bill was introduced “on behalf of ophthalmologists” and would “force” optometrists “to disclose in all advertising their licensing status and empower the Federal Trade Commission to police them.”
The battle between ophthalmologists (physicians) and optometrists (medical professionals) has a long history. Katz continued:
If enacted, the law would effectively require a disclaimer by optometrists that they do not hold medical degrees. That’s precisely the point the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) is most eager to promote in light of a supposed “epidemic of parallel professionalism.”
Of course, bill proponents “overlook the fact that optometry is already heavily regulated by state boards that determine the proper scope of practice—just as state medical boards do—while state and federal laws regulate health care advertising.”
Katz concluded, “it’s all too easy to see that this legislation is less about protecting public health than about protecting the MDs’ monopoly and criminalizing competition.”
That was in 2011.
But as with most bad ideas in Washington, the bill refused to die a quiet death even though its Republican sponsor was defeated in a primary last year. Just 10 days ago, Larry Buschon (R-IN) introduced a nearly identical version of the bill (H.R.1427).
Prospects of the bill look dim, as the previous version never made it out of the Energy and Commerce’s health subcommittee. However, in this case, lawmakers and their constituents should ensure history repeats itself.