House Narrowly Passes Health Care Bill

WASHINGTON – In a victory for President Barack Obama, the Democratic-controlled House narrowly passed landmark health care legislation Saturday night 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 cleared the way for the Senate to begin debate on the issue that has come to overshadow all others in Congress.

A triumphant Speaker Nancy Pelosi likened the legislation to the passage of Social Security in 1935 and Medicare 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, the 83-year-old Michigan 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 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 of Nevada 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."

The 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.

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

"We are going to have a complete government takeover of our health care system faster than you can say, `this is making me sick,'" jabbed Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich., adding that Democrats were intent on passing "a jobs-killing, tax-hiking, deficit-exploding" bill.

But with little doubt about the outcome, the rhetoric lacked the fire of last summer's town hall meetings, when some critics accused Democrats of plotting "death panels" to hasten the demise of senior citizens.

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.

At its core, the measure would create a federally regulated marketplace where consumers could shop for coverage. In the bill's most controversial provision, the government would sell insurance, although the Congressional Budget Office forecasts that premiums for it would be more expensive than for policies sold by private firms.

The bill is projected to expand coverage to 36 million uninsured, resulting in 96 percent of the nation's eligible population having insurance.

To pay for the expansion of coverage, the bill cuts Medicare's projected spending by more than $400 billion over a decade. It also imposes a tax surcharge of 5.4 percent on income over $500,000 in the case of individuals and $1 million for families.

The bill was estimated to reduce federal deficits by about $104 billion over a decade, although it lacked two of the key cost-cutting provisions under consideration in the Senate, and its longer-term impact on government red ink was far from clear.

Democrats lined up a range of outside groups behind their legislation, none more important than the AARP, whose support promises political cover against the cuts to Medicare in next year's congressional elections.

The nation's drug companies generally support health care overhaul. And while the powerful insurance industry opposed the legislation, it did so quietly, and the result was that Republicans could not count on the type of advertising campaign that might have peeled away skittish Democrats in swing districts.

Over all, the bill envisioned the most sweeping set of changes to the health care system in more than a generation, and Democrats said it marked the culmination of a campaign that Harry Truman began when he sat in the White House 60 years ago.

Debate on the House floor had already begun when Obama strode into a closed-door meeting of the Democratic rank and file across the street from the Capitol to make a final personal appeal to them to pass his top domestic priority.

Later, in an appearance at the White House, he said he had told lawmakers, "to rise to this moment. Answer the call of history, and vote yes for health insurance reform for America."

Participants also said Obama had referred to this week's shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, in which 13 people were killed. His remarks put in perspective that the hardships soldiers endure for the country are "what sacrifice really is," as opposed to "casting a vote that might lose an election for you," said Rep. Robert Andrews, D-N.J.

It appeared that a compromise brokered Friday night on the volatile issue of abortion had finally secured the votes needed to pass the legislation.

As drafted, the measure denied the use of federal subsidies to purchase abortion coverage in policies sold by private insurers in the new insurance exchange, except in cases of incest, rape or when the life of the mother was in danger.

But abortion foes won far stronger restrictions that would rule out abortion coverage except in those three categories in any government-sold plan. It would also ban abortion coverage in any private plan purchased by consumers receiving federal subsidies.

Disappointed Democratic abortion rights supporters grumbled about the turn of events, but pulled back quickly from any thought of opposing the health care bill in protest.

One, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., detailed numerous other benefits for women in the bill, including free medical preventive services and better prescription drug coverage under Medicare. "Women need health care reform," she concluded in remarks on the House floor.

A Republican alternative was rejected on a near party line vote of 258-176.

It relied heavily on loosening regulations on private insurers to reduce costs for those who currently have insurance, in some cases by as much as 10 percent. But congressional budget analysts said the plan would make no dent in the ranks of the uninsured, an assessment that highlighted the difference in priorities between the two political parties.

It was a theme of Obama's remarks to Democrats at midmorning.

The president said Democrats have a 70-year history of creating and defending programs like Social Security and Medicare, Andrews said afterward, adding Obama had said the day's vote "is going to define the difference between the Republican and Democratic parties for decades."

8 Comments

5 years 6 weeks ago, 12:31 AM

ecaman

ecaman's picture

Rank:
General
Points:
2613
Join Date:
Jul 2009
Location:
Payson, UT, United States
$1.2 trillion

I very afraid that this will cripple the US economy for decades. The President & his advisers have said that it will pay for itself. I'm by no means a world-class economist, but I just don't believe it.

If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man. (Mark Twain).
5 years 6 weeks ago, 12:49 AM

Anonymous

those folks who are on fixed incomes.their medicare will be cut back with the extra expense put on them.

5 years 6 weeks ago, 1:58 AM

Anonymous

toosk

i aint elderly so i aint exactly needin much...
but since you asked,how about $800.00 dollars?rent is due,I cant work because of a back disability,and welfare wont help me because my family is white and we dont have a crack habit...SERIOUSLY!

5 years 6 weeks ago, 3:20 AM

Anonymous

toosk

believe me,i have thought about this!but i dont know any drug dealers...

5 years 6 weeks ago, 9:22 AM

zx12rmike

zx12rmike's picture

Rank:
President Pro Temp
Points:
7870
Join Date:
Dec 2008
Location:
commiefornia, United States

Candice Miller R-Mich is exactly right. While the Obama bunch are raising taxes to keep up with Inflation they just sank our economy for our children to try and deal with for next millenia!
Not only is it going to create an enormous burden for existing working class, it will lower their income due to taxes,lower their standard of living. Create a whole new sub-class of people not willing to work. They demand (and get for free) health benefits. They can now stay on their crack habit and get medical attention to help them stay alive while doing it. All at our expense of course.
Next question-Large employers are going to have to provide benefits. What is Walmart going to do? Provide insurance or their employees, yea right....

"We cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home" Thomas Jefferson
5 years 6 weeks ago, 9:46 AM

greg az

greg az's picture

Rank:
Secretary of Homeland Security
Points:
5873
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Oct 2009
Location:
New York, NY, Rwanda

Wife and I live in a real remote area of Az, and half of those around us are in there 80's. We don't actaully have "neighbors" but about 200 in the local comunity. These are the real mccoy of the "greatest generation". they all fly flags, were in WWII, live in modest homes but keep them up.
Heres the deal, there all just about dirt poor. they outlived the expected cost of living increases. This is a group that depends on what the gov. is gona cut. I'm getting a bit emotional here. These people arent the type to beg, and they are the ones who will get hit.. I've already seen how they cant afford to smoke anymore. And dont piss me off on this one, i don't smoke, but if an 86 year old thats seen some serious shit for this nation wants to, then i'll be first in line to light the match. This will hurt them. and there the type that just suck it up and make a joke out of it. I'ts WRONG that were doing anything to hurt them..

a man has to hold his word, hold his beliefs, and hold a good sight picture.
5 years 6 weeks ago, 9:55 AM

zx12rmike

zx12rmike's picture

Rank:
President Pro Temp
Points:
7870
Join Date:
Dec 2008
Location:
commiefornia, United States

I agree completely. This isn't going to be the last time the retired people are screwed. I personally don't understand how this government is going to stay working when they are forcing everyone that is working out of work. Companies aren't going to pay for this shit, especially privately owned companies. They will just fold and be working like the rest of us. Where is it going to end? How and when are we going to "undo" all this damage? The liberals are going to get a first hand look at what a socialist society is going to be. I guaranty (except for the crack smokers) they aren't going to like it.

"We cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home" Thomas Jefferson
5 years 5 days ago, 2:25 AM

CharlesW

CharlesW's picture

Rank:
General
Points:
4860
Join Date:
Dec 2009
Location:
Live in the wilderness, Republic of Texas, United States
health care

I'm on total disability. I get medicare -medicade
for $98.00 per month, drug plan is another $40.00.
Us disabled people can't get insurance at work so
our families are screwed. Medicare wont cover them.
I just found out Obamas plan will fix this for $630.00
per month. Yeah some help.
Some things need to be left the F alone.
Thomas Jefferson said " More government dosen't mean
better government"

A little rebellion is good medicine for the government Thomas Jefferson

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