Congress passes landmark health care reform bill
President Barack Obama won a historic victory in the struggle for health care reform Sunday as the House of Representatives passed a sweeping bill overhauling the American medical system.
The bill passed in a 219-212 vote after more than a year of bitter partisan debate. All 178 Republicans opposed it, along with 34 Democrats.
The measure, which cleared the Senate in December, will now go to Obama's desk to be signed into law. It constitutes the biggest expansion of federal health care guarantees since the enactment of Medicare and Medicaid more than four decades ago.
A separate compromise package of changes expanding the reach of the measure also passed the House over unanimous GOP opposition, and is now set to be taken up by the Senate.
The overall $940 billion plan is projected to extend insurance coverage to roughly 32 million additional Americans. It represents a significant step toward the goal of universal coverage sought by every Democratic president since Harry Truman.
Most Americans will now be required to have health insurance or pay a fine. Larger employers will be required to provide coverage or risk financial penalties. Total individual out-of-pocket expenses will be capped and insurers will be barred from denying coverage based on gender or pre-existing conditions.
The compromise package would add to the bill's total cost partly by expanding insurance subsidies for middle- and lower-income families. The measure would scale back the bill's taxes on expensive insurance plans.
Numerous House members insisted they would not vote for the Senate bill without a clear promise that senators would approve the changes.
"This is what change looks like," Obama said shortly after the votes. The passage of health care reform is "not a victory for any one party. ... It's a victory for the American people and it's a victory for common sense."
Read the rest of this entry......