House Passes Health Care Reform Bill

Carla Peay | 11/10/2009, 11:25 p.m.

The fight for health care reform took a huge step forward with the passing of legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives. In a vote held on Sat., Nov. 7, the House passed a bill by a vote of 220-215. The bill must now be passed by the Senate, where several House Democrats have said they expect it to face significant opposition.

The bill, known as the Affordable Health Care for America Act, will cover approximately 96 percent of all legal U.S. residents under the age of 65. Currently, about 83 percent of U.S. citizens under 65 have health care, according to the figures released by the House.

€I particularly support this bill because it will lift the burden that the District heroically took on, beginning with the [Mayor Anthony] Williams administration, to offer health care to the uninsured, without any assistance from the federal government, rather than subject them, as well as the District government, to emergency room care, the most expensive available,€ said D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton in a statement released by her office.
Figures released by the Congressional Budget office estimate that the bill will cost $1.055 trillion over the next 10 years, with a net cost of $894 billion. The difference is expected to be absorbed by penalties imposed on those who do not comply with the new regulations and in the restructuring of current health care systems.

In order to pay for this reform, the bill will impose an income tax increase on single people who earn over $500,000 and on couples who earn more than $1 million per year, which is expected to bring in $460 billion.

Also included in the bill:
  • Approximately $400 billion in cuts to Medicare and Medicaid
  • A penalty of eight percent for employers who fail to provide health insurance for their employees. Businesses with payrolls of less than $500,000 annually would be exempt, and those with fewer than 10 employees would receive tax credits
  • A sliding scale income subsidy to help individuals and families to purchase their own health insurance to begin in 2013
  • Coverage could not be denied because of pre-existing conditions
  • As for the much discussed Public Option, the bill includes a system of insurance exchanges that will be run by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Costs and coverage rates would be negotiated by HHS with insurance providers.

€I am proud of the remarkable advances made by the bill, even though it does not meet all that I pressed to achieve. We have produced a bill that satisfies deficit hawks, who are more wary of increasing deficits than of any other issue, as well as single-payer advocates, who believe that only Medicare for all can markedly reduce costs while providing adequate health care to the middle class and the uninsured. There can be no doubt that the Affordable Health Care for America Act is a balanced bill,€ Norton added in her statement.

President Barack Obama said on Sun., Nov. 8 that he is €confident€ that the Senate will pass a reform bill, but many Republican lawmakers and conservative Democrats, are still opposed both to this specific bill, and to health care reform in general.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I- Conn.) has publically stated that he will not vote for a plan that includes any type of government run option €as a matter of conscience€, and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called the bill €dead on arrival€ [in the Senate].

The Senate has yet to schedule a debate on the House bill. WI