One would think that would be the rule, right? If you're a congressperson and haven't read -- or don't understand -- a particular bill, you can't vote on it. Makes sense, right? Too bad that's not the way it works.
Here's one lovely example from Overlawyered.com: http://overlawyered.com/2009/07/medicare-qui-tam-a-health-care-bill-surprise/.
Apparently, just before President Obama's much beloved universal health care bill was shipped off the the House Ways and Means Committee, a "special" provision was discovered. One that would allow anyone to sue on behalf of the government to recover money from a third party that caused medicare to spend money.
What does that mean? Let's assume you're a driver. You're already having a crappy day, and you crash into another driver who cuts you off in traffic because he's texting and changing the radio station while steering with his knee. Maybe it's legally your fault, maybe not, but there's no debating that you are the proximal cause of the injury. Now, say the injured driver has government healthcare, and that government healthcare pays $20,000 to fix that driver's broken leg. Now, some enterprising lawyer can sue you to recover what medicare spent. Where does the money go? Some to reimburse medicare. But much of it would remain in the pocket of that lawyer.
Even better, other language in the bill would allow the lawyer to sue based on "any relevant evidence, including but not limited to relevant statistical or epidemiological evidence, or by other similarly reliable means." That means if you own a restaurant, and have served food -- some of it high calorie, artery clogging, yummy food -- you can be sued because statistical evidence shows that medicare has to pay for health issues related to fatty foods.
Did the legislators who are pushing this bill know that such language was in there?? I don't know what I hope the answer is. If "yes," then they really want to make sure everyone gets sued for everything they do (or statistically may have done). If "no" then they are clearly voting on bills they don't read, and don't understand.
And people wonder why lawyers are considered bottom-feeders and this country's government is a laughingstock elsewhere.... Please, let's dissolve our government and start over.
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