After a year of legislative activity, the House passed the health care reform bill. Quoting a letter from the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) to President Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, "Passing health care is the great unfinished business of our country." Then she added, "That is, until today."
Past Democratic presidents —even intermittent Republicans like Richard M. Nixon — have wanted to reform universal health care system. However, both parties have avoided major health care reform since President Bill Clinton's efforts collapsed in 1994.
On Sunday, March 21, 2010, the House approved the bill, H.R. 4872, with a vote count of 219 to 212. As the GOP had previously committed, not a single Republican voted in favor of the bill. In total, 178 Republicans and 34 Democrats voted against passing the bill which will now go to President Obama to be signed.
Mike Pence (R-IN), chairman of the House COP Conference said, "This is truly a remarkable moment in the life of this nation. Some say we're making history. I say we're breaking history, breaking with our best traditions. Only in Washington, D.C., can you spend a trillion dollars and say that you're saving the taxpayers money."
Although this landmark health care bill is saturating news headlines across the country today, many Americans still have questions as to what exactly is in the bill.
NPR offers these highlights:
- The $940 billion bill seeks to extend health coverage to most Americans.
- Medicaid, the federal-state program that provides health insurance to the poor and disabled, will be expanded to cover all adults earning less than 133 percent of the federal poverty level.
- Private health insurance will be made available to individuals and small companies through exchanges that will be run by the states.
- Individuals who do not buy insurance face fines, as do most employers who do not offer coverage to workers.
- Bill sponsors predict that all but about 5 percent of non-elderly Americans will ultimately be covered. Half of those currently uninsured will receive coverage through the expansion of Medicaid and half through private insurance through the exchanges — often with subsidies that make up the bulk of the legislation's projected costs.
- The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the legislation will reduce the federal deficit by $143 billion over the next 10 years and by some $1.2 trillion over the following decade; however, critics of the bill say these proposed savings are "fictional."
The Obama administration officials say these "early deliverables" or immediate effects will be seen yet this year as benefits of the health legislation:
- Dependent children could remain on their parents' health insurance plans until age 26.
- Senior citizens would get more help paying for drugs in Medicare.
- People with health problems that left them uninsurable could qualify for coverage through a federal program.
If these changes seem big, just wait until 2014 when insurance companies will be required to accept all applicants—regardless of health issues—and Medicaid will expand its state programs.
Most Americans, it seems, either support the bill wholeheartedly or are vehemently against it. Although some details on the bill have been presented to the public, many questions have already been voiced by the public including confusion surrounding breadth of coverage, small business tax credit, market sector fees, and the individual responsibility requirement.