The United States House of Representatives made history late Sunday night by passing the Senate version of the healthcare reform bill by a narrow but firm margin of 219-212. Further the House also passed the “fix it” bill of House amendments to the Senate bill, by a margin of 217-205. Every House Republican voted against the bill.
Speaking after the vote, Mr. Obama said, “This is what change looks like,” adding however that this was a victory for commonsense rather than for any political party. He conceded that it was not an easy vote for a lot of people, “But it was the right vote,” he said.
Mr. Obama reminded the caucus that the vote was for the common man: “To every unsung American, who took the time to sit down and write a letter… hoping your voice would be heard, it has been heard tonight.”
In due course it is expected that the bill passed on Sunday would lead to additional insurance coverage for almost 32 million more Americans, bringing the healthcare system closer than ever to the goal of universal coverage. It will also weaken the grip of health insurance companies over the market by preventing them from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions and restrict their ability to raise premiums or drop coverage.
Further, children may remain on their parents' insurance policies until the age of 26 and insurance companies would no longer be able to impose lifetime limits on policies. The costs of obtaining insurance cover would also fall for older people and those with pre-existing conditions through their participation in “high-risk pools.” Small business would also derive such benefits by participating in state-level exchanges and some businesses would face penalties for not providing their employees with insurance.
The bill, which will soon be signed into law by President Obama as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, will also bring down the deficit of the country by $143 billion over 10 years and by over a trillion dollars within the following 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the non-partisan scorekeeper on such debates. It will cost the American taxpayer $940 billion, according to the CBO.
High drama on the abortion issue accompanied the passage of the bill. Pro-life Democratic Congressman Bart Stupak – who dropped his opposition to the bill based on the promise of a Presidential Executive Order banning the use of federal funds for abortions – was called “baby-killer” by an unknown member of Congress from the Republican side. Mr. Stupak has been one of the most staunch pro-lifers in the House in years.