Speedreading tips for senators reviewing the new American Health Care Act

The Republican effort to rewrite healthcare legislation has dragged its feet. Warring conservative factions and widespread public scrutiny delayed the House’s drafting process for months after it was announced, all resulting in the Senate immediately saying “nah” and starting over.

Voting to slash Medicaid and Planned Parenthood, however, takes the GOP about as long as it takes Mitch McConnell to finish. The House voted on its final version of the American Health Care Act a day after it was introduced, without representatives having time to read the thing.

Now, Majority Leader McConnell has promised to present the Senate a “discussion draft” on Thursday and is demanding a vote before the July 4 recess. As of Tuesday, when members of the working group allegedly writing the legislation still hadn’t seen a lick of language, it wasn’t even clear whether senators would receive more than 10 hours to review this shit.

To help our elected officials prepare for the rapid timeline with which they must decide the fate of millions of poor and sick people’s insurance, Death and Taxes asked speed-reading experts for advice. Anne Jones is a six-time World Speed Reading champion who once read Harper Lee’s “Go Set A Watchman” in just over 25 minutes. Liz Schotter is an assistant professor at the University of California, San Diego who studies the biological and cognitive processes underlying reading.

You’re welcome.

Tip #1: Actually read the House bill.

Yes, unlike the House dinguses who blindly voted yes, senators should read the lower chamber’s version. “A great deal depends on how familiar the senators are with similar types of reading,” Jones said. “It would help if they had read the House version of the bill. They will know something about the bill before reading it.

“Generally, a good starting point for thinking would be these three questions: What do I know about this already? What would I like to know? What do I think the authors will say?”

It’d also be helpful to review the Obamacare legislation that the majority of voters don’t want repealed in the first place.

Tip #2: Skim before reading.

“They could save at least 24 percent of overall reading time by looking through the bill very quickly,” Jones said. “At this stage, a brief glance of each page would give them an overview of what is there and what isn’t. This survey would help them determine their approach. There will be sections with familiar content that can be quickly read and others which will require in-depth reading.”

This initial skim will help senators better prepare to review the bill for technical obstacles, like pretending that restricting abortions has anything to do with budget reconciliation.

“As experts, the senators would at this point be starting to think of potential legal issues,” Jones said. “It is thinking time that they will need and the quick survey begins the process and prepares their brains to take on board the new information more efficiently.”

Tip #3: Read the bill multiple times aloud.

Reading legalistic writing like legislation is a cognitive strain, but don’t worry John McCain, there are tools to help. “Working memory holds information ‘in mind’ as we process it. Most adults can manage to process a maximum of four concepts or four instructions at one time,” Jones explained. “More than that and we ‘zone out.’ This is why legal texts often appear dense and difficult to follow.”

She offered two tips for overcoming the limits of senators’ brains:

  • “Read it through quickly for gist, then read it again. Some of it will then be in recent memory and this assists the limited capacity of working memory when it is re-read.”
  • “Read it aloud. This helps processing with an auditory memory boost.”

Keep your voice down, though. Wouldn’t want the public or fake news media to hear what’s being debated.

Tip #4: Don’t be British.

Jones admitted that living in the UK limits her ability to understand how America’s legislative process works. So if any senators have summer cottages in Cambridge, be sure to pay extra close attention.

“I had a look at the House bill,” she said. “As a UK citizen, I would find it difficult to really get to grips with the content because our system operates very differently. I would need a better understanding of how federal government interacts with the different states and insurers and other stakeholders to fund, or not to fund, healthcare.”

Tip #5: Find a thinking place.

Maybe the most important step to consuming McConnell’s stinker in time for his aggressive vote schedule, Jones and Schotter agreed, is finding a nice quiet corner of the Capitol, or maybe among the bushes outside, to reflect on why the fuck you’re arguing over which types of sick people deserve affordable premiums.

“The task of the senator/aide is not only to understand what is stated in the document but is also to ruminate on the statements and decide what consequences — good or bad — they have for their constituents before they vote on it,” Schotter said. “The time required for consideration might likely be much more than the time needed to merely read it.

Jones warned that the “thinking” part of speed reading legislation is the most difficult step.

“Human beings are quite capable of deluding themselves as to why they make the choices they do,” she said. “To quote Cordelia Fine, writing in ‘A Mind of Its Own’: ‘Yet, thanks to the masquerading of an untrustworthy brain with a mind of its own, much of what you think you know is not quite what it seems.'”

There you go, guys. Good luck!

[photo: Getty]