House Passes Landmark Health Care Bill

Despite GOP Opposition, House Votes 220-215 to Expand Health Coverage for Americans,
Place New Restrictions on Insurers

By Kimberly Dozier, AP and
Ezcerpted From Report By Associated Press and CBS News
November 8, 2009

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, center, is joined by (L-R) House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Rep. George Miller, D-Calif. during a press conference at the U.S. Capitol, Saturday, Nov. 7, 2009 in Washington after the passage in the House of the health care reform bill.

After months of heated town hall debates, health care reform had its first big test on the floor of the House of Representatives. Kimberly Dozier reports on this contentious day on Capitol Hill.

According to estimates, thousands protested at the Capitol against the House Democrats health care bill.

(AP) In a victory for President Barack Obama, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives narrowly passed landmark health care legislation to expand coverage to tens of millions who lack it and place tough new restrictions on the insurance industry. Republican opposition was nearly unanimous.

The 220-215 vote late Saturday night cleared the way for the Senate to begin debate on the issue that has come to overshadow all others in Congress. But it will be tougher to get Senate approval because Democrats will need 60 out of 100 votes to end debate and bring legislation to a final vote, and several moderate Democratic senators still have reservations. Special Report: Health Care Reform

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi likened the legislation to the passage of the government's Social Security pension program in 1935 and Medicare health insurance for the elderly 30 years later.

"It provides coverage for 96 percent of Americans. It offers everyone, regardless of health or income, the peace of mind that comes from knowing they will have access to affordable health care when they need it," said Rep. John Dingell, an 83-year-old Democratic lawmaker who has introduced national health insurance in every Congress since succeeding his father in 1955.

In the run-up to a final vote, conservatives from the two political parties joined forces to impose tough new restrictions on abortion coverage in insurance policies to be sold to many individuals and small groups. They prevailed on a roll call of 240-194.

Ironically, that only solidified support for the legislation, clearing the way for conservative Democrats to vote for it.

The legislation would require most Americans to carry insurance and provide federal subsidies to those who otherwise could not afford it. Large companies would have to offer coverage to their employees. Both consumers and companies would be slapped with penalties if they defied the government's mandates.

Insurance industry practices such as denying coverage on the basis of pre-existing medical conditions would be banned, and insurers would no longer be able to charge higher premiums on the basis of gender or medical history. In a further slap, the industry would lose its exemption from federal antitrust restrictions on price gouging, bid rigging and market allocation.

A cheer went up from the Democratic side of the House when the bill gained 218 votes, a majority. Moments later, Democrats counted down the final seconds of the voting period in unison, and let loose an even louder roar when Pelosi grabbed the gavel and declared, "the bill is passed."

From the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid issued a statement saying, "We realize the strong will for reform that exists, and we are energized that we stand closer than ever to reforming our broken health insurance system."

If the Senate does pass a bill, it would have to be reconciled with the House version by a panel of lawmakers from both chambers before the legislation is put up for final approval.

The House bill drew the votes of 219 Democrats and Rep. Joseph Cao, a first-term Republican who holds an overwhelmingly Democratic seat in New Orleans. Opposed were 176 Republicans and 39 Democrats.

Nearly unanimous in their opposition, minority Republicans cataloged their objections across hours of debate on the 1,990-page, $1.2 trillion legislation.

Key Provisions of the House Health Care Bill (Posted by Jill Jackson)

The House passed H.R. 3962, called the "Affordable Health Care for America Act," in a 220 to 215 vote on Saturday night. Here's a look at some of the provisions in the $1.2 trillion dollar bill:

  • Creates a public health insurance option and a national exchange for the uninsured and small businesses to purchase health insurance. The Secretary of Health and Human Services would negotiate rates with doctors and hospitals on reimbursement rates.
  • The bill includes mandates for individuals to purchase and businesses to provide health insurance or pay a fine. Individual penalty is 2.5 percent of gross income unless they get a waiver. Businesses that don't offer insurance pay a fine equal to 8 percent of their payroll. Businesses with a payroll of less than $500,000 are exempt from the mandate.
  • Insurance companies are prohibited from denying coverage based on a pre-existing condition. There are caps on deductibles and annual out of pocket spending is capped at $5000.
  • Eliminates the Medicare doughnut hole over ten years.
  • Allows individuals up to 27-years-old to stay on their parentís health insurance
  • Expands Medicaid from 100 percent to 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Level.
  • Provides tax subsidies for individuals between 150 and 400 percent (sliding scale) of the Federal Poverty Level. There are also tax subsidies for small businesses.
  • As amended, it prohibits federal funds from covering abortions. Women would need to purchase riders to insurance purchased on the exchange if they wanted that coverage.
  • The bill taxes individuals making more than $500,000 and $1 million for couples. It is a 5.4 percent tax.
  • Reduces overpayments to doctors who treat Medicare Advantage patients. It is estimated they are paid 14 percent more than doctors who treat Medicare patients.

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