Health Care Bills Shrouded in Secrecy, Says ASNE

By: E&P Staff

The American Society of News Editors (ASNE) waded into the debate over health care reform Tuesday, decrying “an inexcusable level of secrecy surrounding this landmark legislation.”

ASNE said too much of the congressional debate and negotiations over the America’s Affordable Health Care Act of 2009 and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is taking place behind closed doors.

“We have been monitoring these bills in the House and the Senate and evaluating our members’ needs in terms of gathering news and information they can use to inform the public,” ASNE President Martin Kaiser said. “It is now clear that there is an inexcusable level of secrecy surrounding this landmark legislation, especially as the current proceedings are likely to produce the final version presented to all members of Congress.”

Negotiating the final shape of health care reform “through closed-door proceedings is an affront to one of the core values of democracy,” added Kaiser, editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

“We are aware that congressional rules and procedures allow bills to be legislated in this fashion,” the ASNE statement said. “We do not agree with these mechanisms or their employ, especially where the stakes are as high as they are now. We call on Congress, and the president, to recognize the overriding interest in the openness of the health care debate and resist any urge to conduct further proceedings in secret.”

ASNE said the best way for the congressional leadership to win public trust in the final result of the health care legislation is with maximum openness.

“Openness is not a partisan matter,” the ASNE statement said. “In fact, it’s quite the opposite, often serving as one of the uniquely unifying factors for those with differing views.”

ASNE called on President Obama to urge openness in the congressional debates.

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