One press account recalled testimony in which a bill was called, variously, ''the most important bill of this Congress or this decade," "a casserrole made from the leftovers of the previous evening's meal" and an airplane that cannot fly.
Indeed, it did not fly. And the reasons have been hashed over, the blame has been doled out to an overreaching Clinton administration, Republicans who found that their old "socialized medicine" critique still had legs and the usual collection of interests clawing not to have the savings come out of their hides.
But a few news items recently were reminders of how perversely the U.S. health system rewards some - and still shortchanges others.
One that caught our eye was the news, in an Inquirer report on top-earning CEOs, that Leonard Abramson, who heads up U.S. Healthcare, took in more than $3.5 million last year in salary, bonuses and other short-term compensation.
In the eyes of some compensation experts, he was - even at that - underpaid. Might we suggest another way of looking at the figure: It would appear that several million dollars that might be going to healing the sick or paying hospital charges are ending up in one man's pocket.
That was the general idea, also, of a second item - this one on what the Pennsylvania treasurer called "exorbitant profits" made by private managed- care firms that serve Medicaid patients.
The contracts have since been renegotiated. But with the state about to add 650,000 low-income residents to the HMO system next year, it would be nice if the interests of consumers and taxpayers got paid a lot closer attention.
The 103d Congress may have dodged making the "hard choices." But that has only made them tougher for state welfare officials and parents with sick children, for doctors and hospital administrators.