On a vote of 220 to 212, the House of Representatives yesterday passed a historic healthcare bill that will extend coverage to 32 million Americans, reduce deficits and ban insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions.
For the first time, most Americans would be required to purchase insurance, and face penalties if they refused. The majority of the bill is devoted to subsidies to help families at incomes of up to $88,000 a year pay their premiums.
The bill would also expand Medicaid, the federal-state healthcare program for low-income families and individuals. The insurance industry, which spent millions on advertising trying to block the bill, would come under new federal regulation. Parents would be able to keep children up to age 26 on their family insurance plans.
Also, beginning in 2010, small-business owners will be offered tax credits of up to 35 percent of premiums to help insure their employees.
It is estimated the reform will cost about 940 billion over a 10-year period. To pay for the changes, the legislation includes more than $400 billion in higher taxes over a decade and cuts more than $500 billion from planned payments to healthcare facilities such as hospitals, nursing homes and other providers that treat Medicare patients.
In a televised appearance, President Barack Obama said the vote is not a victory for any one party, but for the American people and “for common sense.”
“Tonight, at a time when the pundits said it was no longer possible, we rose above the weight of our politics,” Obama said. “We pushed back on the undue influence of special interests. We didn’t give in to mistrust or to cynicism or to fear. Instead, we proved that we are still a people capable of doing big things and tackling our biggest challenges.”
The bill will now go to Obama for his signature, and Congressional officials said they expect him to sign it as early as tomorrow.