Katz & Bommarito in the New York Times Discussing H.R. 3962

NYT Rx Blog

If you click through on the link above you will be directed to the New York Times Rx Blog.  The full version of the article appears online while a shorter version appeared in today’s print edition. For those viewing the print edition, the story is located on page A20. This website is mentioned in both versions of the story!

Visualizing the Structure of H.R. 3962 — The Health Care Bill

HR 3962 Visual

In addition to the facts we have presented on HR 3962, we wanted to offer a visualization for the structure of the Bill. Like many other bills, HR 3962, is divided into Divisions, Titles, Subtitles, Parts, Subparts, Sections, Subsections, Clauses, and Subclauses. These hierarchical splits represent the drafters’ conception of its organization, and thus the relative size of these categories may provide an indication of both the importance of each section of the Bill as well as the overall size of the document. By clicking through the image below, you can navigate a zoomable representation of the structure of HR 3962 using Microsoft’s Seadragon zoom interface.  Many of the Divisions, Titles, Subtitles, Parts, and Subparts of the Bill are labeled. The balance are not labeled because they fell on an angle on the radial layout which rendered them impossible to read.

The graph is laid out in a radial manner with the center node labeled “H.R. 3962.” Legislation, the broader United States Code as well as many other classes of information are organized as hierarchical documents. H.R. 3962 is no different. For those less familiar with this type of documents, we thought it useful to provide a tutorial regarding (1) how to use this zoomable visualization (2) the correspondence between the visual and the Library of Congress version of H.R. 3962

How Do I Open/Navigate the Visualization?

(1) Open the Library of Congress version of H.R. 3962 in another browser window.

(2) Open the visualization by clicking on the large image above.

(3) Clicking on the image above will take you to the Seadragon platform. (Note: Load times will vary from machine to machine… so please be patient.)

(4) Seadragon allows for zoomable visualizations and for full screen viewing. Full screen is really the best way to go. If you run your mouse over the black box where the visual is located you will see four buttons in the southeast corner.  The “full screen” button is the last one on the right. Click the button and you will be taken to full screen viewing!

(5) Click to zoom in and out, hold the mouse down and drag the entire visual, etc. Now, you are ready to traverse the graph using this visualization as your very own “H.R. 3962 Magic Decoder Wheel.”

How Do I Understand the Visualization?

To introduce the substance of the visualization, we have color coded two separate examples right into the visualization.

Example 1: Bills such as HR 3962 often feature a “short title” provision at the very begining of the legislation.  For example, if you download the PDF copy of the bill, you can see the short title at the bottom of page 1 of the bill.  You can also see this in the Library of Congress version of H.R. 3962.

(a) Short Title- This Act may be cited as the `Affordable Health Care for America Act’.

Zoom in close to start in the center where the large node labeled “HR 3962.”  Notice the blue colorized path features the blue labels 1. and terminates with the label (a). The labels in the graph are the labels in the text above.  While this is a simple example, the precise logic defines the entire graph.

Example 2: This is a bit more difficult as it requires the traversal of several provisions in order to reach a terminal node.  In this case, the terminal node read as follows … “SEC. 401. INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITY.For an individual’s responsibility to obtain acceptable coverage, see section 59B of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (as added by section 501 of this Act).”

Subtitle A–Individual Responsibility

Again, zoom in close to start in the center--where the large node labeled “HR 3962.”  Notice the blue colorized path features the blue labels A and terminates with the label 401. In between the start and finish, there are stops at IV and A, respectfully.  Just as before, the labels in the graph are the labels in the text above.  The end user can follow the precise journey but without the visual by using the Library of Congress version of H.R. 3962.

Facts About the Length of H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act (AHCAA)

In light of last night’s vote on H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act, we decided to calculate a few numbers on the current bill. Based on the Library of Congress’s XML representation of the bill (which can be obtained here), we have calculated a number of linguistic and citation properties of the Bill. The House of Representative approved HR 3962 by a 220-215 margin. The New York Times features a useful analysis of the vote including a breakout by party and region here.

On the Sunday morning talk shows as well as in other outlets, there has been significant discussion regarding the size of H.R. 3962. Specifically, many critics have decried the length of the bill citing its 1990 pages. The bill is indeed 1990 pages as you can see if you choose to download a PDF copy of the bill.

The purpose of this post is to provide a perspective regarding the length of H.R. 3962. Those versed in the typesetting practices of the United States Congress know that the printed version of a bill contains a significant amount of whitespace including non-trivial space between lines, large headers and margins, an embedded table of contents, and large font. For example, consider page 12 of the printed version of H.R. 3962.  This page contains fewer than 150 substantive words.

We believe a simple page count vastly overstates the actual length of bill. Rather than use page counts, we counted the number of words contained in the bill and compared these counts to the number of words in the existing United States Code. In addition, we consider the number of text blocks in the bill– where a text block is a unit of text under a section, subsection, clause, or sub-clause.

Basic Information about the Length of H.R. 3962

Number of words in H.R. 3962 impacting substantive law:

  • 234,812 words (w/ generous calculation)

Number of total words in H.R. 3962: 363,086 words (w/ titles, tables of contents …)
Number of text blocks: 7,961
Average number of words per text block: 24.18
Average words per section: 267.03

Is this a Large or Small Number? Comparison to Harry Potter

Number of substantive words in H.R. 3962: 234,812 words
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – 257,000 words
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – 190,000 words
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – 198,000 words

Is this a Large or Small Number? Comparison to Other Legislation

Number of substantive words in Energy Bill of 2007: 157,835 words
Number of substantive words in Defense Authorization Act for 2010: 119,960 Words
H.R. 3962 is roughly 2x the Size of Medicare Rx Bill of 2003 (Given there is no public XML version of the bill, the Exact “Substantive Words” Number is not available)

Is this a Large or Small Number? Comparison to the Full U.S. Code

Size of the United States Code: 42+ Million Words
Relative Size of H.R. 3962: H.R. 3962 is roughly 1/2 of one percent of the size of the United States Code

Longest Sections in H.R. 3962

  • Sec 341. Availability Through Health Insurance Exchange
  • Sec 1222. Demonstration to promote access for Medicare beneficiaries with limited English proficiency by providing reimbursement for culturally and linguistically appropriate services.
  • Sec 1160: Implementation, and Congressional review, of proposal to revise Medicare payments to promote high value health care
  • Sec 305: Funding for the construction, expansion, and modernization of small ambulatory care facilities
  • Sec 1417: Nationwide program for national and State background checks on direct patient access employees of long-term care facilities and providers

Modifications of the Existing U.S. Code By H.R. 3962

Number of Strikeouts: 332
Number of Inserts: 390
Number of Re-designations: 65

Acts Most Cited By H.R. 3962

Social Security Act: 622 times
Public Health Service Act: 134 times
Affordable Health Care for America Act: 60 times
Indian Health Care Improvement Act: 56 times
Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act: 45 times
Employee Retirement Income Security Act: 39 times
Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act: 11 times
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act: 7

Sections of the U.S. Code Cited (Properly) Most By H.R. 3962

25 U.S.C. §450. Congressional statement of findings: 38
25 U.S.C. §13. Expenditure of appropriations by Bureau: 13
42 U.S.C. §1396a(a). State plans for medical assistance: 10
42 U.S.C. §1396d(a). Definitions: 7
42 U.S.C. §2004a. Sanitation facilities: 7

The Structure of the United States Code

United States Code (All Titles)

Formally organized into 50 titles, the United States Code is the repository for federal statutory law. While each of the 50 titles define a particular substantive domain, the structure within and across titles can be represent as a graph/network. In a series of prior posts, we offered visualizations at various “depths” for a number of well know U.S.C. titles. Click here and click Here for our two separate visualizations of the Tax Code (Title 26).  Click here for our visualization of the Bankruptcy Code (Title 11).  Click here for our visualization of Copyright (Title 17). While our prior efforts were devoted to displaying the structure of a given title of the US Code, the visualization above offers a complete view of the structure of the entire United States Code (Titles 1-50).

Using Seadragon from Microsoft Labs, each title is labeled with its respective number. The small black dots are “vertices” representing all sections in the aggregate US Code (~37,500 total sections). Given the size of the total undertaking, in the visual above, every title is represented to the “section level.”  As we described in earlier posts, a “section level” representation halts at the section and thus does not represent any of subsection depth.  For example, all sections under 26 U.S.C. § 501 including the well known § 501 (c) (3) are reattributed upward to their parent section.

There are two sources of structure within the United States Code. The explicitly defined structure / linkage / dependancy derives from the sections contained under a given title. The more nuanced version of structure is obtained from references or definitions contained within particular sections. This class of connections not only link sections within a given title but also connection sections across titles.  Within this above visual, we represent these important cross-title references by coloring them red.

Taken together, this full graph of the Untied States Code is quite large {i.e. directed graph (|V| = 37500, |E| = 197749)}. There exist 37,500 total sections distributed across the 50 Titles. However, these sections are not distributed in a uniform manner. For example, components such as Title 1 feature very few sections while Titles such as 26 and 42 contain many sections. The number of edges far outstrips the number of vertices with a total 197,000+ edges in the graph.

Picture 1 Seadragon has a number of nice features which enhance the experience of the end user. For example, a user can drag the image around by clicking and holding down the mouse button. Most importantly, is the symbol to the left. If you run your mouse over the above zoomable visual… look for this symbol to appear in the southeast corner.  Click on it and it will make the visual full size… as you will see… the full size visual makes for a far more compelling HCI

Copyright → Title 17 U.S. Code w/ Sea Dragon From Microsoft Labs


This is part of our ongoing visualizations of the United States Code. For previous posts visualizing other portions of the code see Title 26 Tax and Title 11 BK. So, we wanted to test out the new Sea Dragon Visualizer from Microsoft Labs and thought Title 17 Copyright would be a fun way to give it a go.  In this visual, each of the chapters under Title 17 is separately colored.

To use the visual, start in the center with the large label “Title 17 U.S.C.” and traverse the graph all the way out to any section or subsection. Sea Dragon should allow the user to smoothly zoom in and read any node.  We love the interface.  

In our view, the Full Screen Visual is the best.  You can access it by clicking the Full Size Button on the far right.  Also, if for whatever reason you zoom in too far, just use the Home Button to go back to the Full Image. Enjoy but note SeaDragon relies upon Silverlight and Javascript (so you might need to install this).

Visualizing 26 U.S.C ___ : At the "Section Depth"

26 USC __


Title 26 of the United States Code is likely on the mind of many as we move toward April 15th. As a part of a project with Lilian V. Faulhaber (Climenko Fellow from HLS), we have become interested in the architecture of 26 U.S.C. ___.

As we define it, a “section depth” representation for 26 U.S.C. 501(c)(3) represents a traversal to the level of Sec. 501. While a “full depth” representation would include a mapping beyond Sec. 501 to its (c) and (3) subcomponents. In our previous post highlighting 11 U.S.C. __ (the Bankruptcy Code), we presented a traversable “full depth” representation for its structure.


Considering all 50 titles of the United States Code, 26 U.S.C. __ is among the largest of the titles in its architectural size and depth. In fact, given its size, it is not possible for us to render for public consumption, a labeled, “full depth” and zoomable representation for all of 26 U.S.C. ___.

Above we provide a “section depth” representation for 26 U.S.C __ where the terminal nodes are sections such Sec. 1031. You will notice that this section depth representation is roughly the size of the full depth representation we provide for 11 U.S.C. ___. We have colored in Green the primary Income Tax Sections under 26. The documentation is similar to that for 11 U.S.C. ___ thus please refer to this post for additional information. However, for traversal purposes, it is important to remember to start in the middle at the “26 U.S.C.” and follow the branch of the graph out to a leaf node.

We believe the comparative consideration of the architecture for these titles offers a rough first cut on questions of code magnitude and complexity. Although it is a first order approximation and we do believe layering in the relevant administrative regulations and jurisprudence to these sections would represent an improvement on the question, it still bears asking whether it would drastically alter the macro state of affairs. That is an empirical question and only time will tell.


With Bankruptcy on Our Minds: The Structure of Title 11 U.S.C.



We have become interesting in visualizing the structure of the law including its components and subcomponents.  In reduced form, statutes, regulations and certain other units of the law can be characterized in graph theoretical terms.  While we do not make deep inroads on the content of this above graph, we do generate a tree traversable visualization for its structure.

Much of my training in law school (particularly in the so called “code-based” classes) was focused upon developing mental models for the structure and content of graphs such as the one displayed above. In my case, I believe the usage of such a visualization early in a code-based course would have been beneficial. Thus, we offer this traversable visualization to the world for not only its research value but also for pedagogical purposes.


Start in the MIDDLE at the “11 U.S.C.__ ” Label and traverse out.

GREEN NODE LABELS =   for SECTIONS  {In the Example below, 11 U.S.C. § 101}
YELLOW ARCS — Chapter 7 of Title 11 = LIQUIDATION
BLUE ARCS — Chapter 11 of Title 11 = REORGANIZATION  (aka “Filing Chapter 11“)
RED ARCS and GREY ARCS — Balance of the Chapters under Title 11
Red Arcs are for lines which lead to terminal nodes
Grey Arcs are for lines which do not immediately lead to terminal nodes


Please feel free to PLAY AROUND and TEST IT OUT!
This is an early production version so please provide us with any feedback and/or suggestions.