Late Saturday night, Nov. 7, the House of Representatives passed what may become the defining piece of legislation regarding social policy this century- President Obama’s health-care reform bill.
The H.R. 3962, otherwise known as the Affordable Health Care for America Act, made it through the House in a vote of 220 to 215. The bill needed 218 votes to pass and the decision came down to the wire. The Democrats were able to rally 219 votes and were supported by Rep. Anh Cao of Louisiana, the only Republican to vote in favor of the bill.
Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, commented that the passage of this legislation represents “a historic moment for our nation and for America’s families.”
Many Republicans disagree heartily, and warn that the consequences for Americans include higher taxes, increased insurance premiums and cuts to Medicare.
According to the Democrats though, the bill will be good for Americans, and the negative consequences stated by the Republicans will not come to pass. The $1.3 trillion bill will require individuals to have insurance on penalty of a fine and require medium and large businesses to provide their employees with insurance. A public option for insurance will be made available for those who do not have access to it through their jobs, and low to middle income families will receive subsidies through the government in order to purchase this insurance. The money for this will come from increased taxes on those whose income is $500,000 or more and from medical providers. The bill will also make it illegal for insurance companies to drop or deny an individual’s coverage based on a pre-existing condition or increased cost of care.
That is not all that the bill will do though. According to Pelosi, the legislation also prohibits unequal charging of men and women for the same coverage, reduces the cost of drugs for senior citizens and allows young adults to stay under their parents’ insurance coverage until their 27th birthday. Pelosi also guarantees that the bill will not add a dime to the national deficit.
There were a number of more conservative Democrats to whom concessions had to be made in order to secure enough votes for the bill to pass. The major issue concerned government funds that would go towards abortion services in the public option. An amendment was passed that would ban these funds except in cases of rape, incest or the mother’s life being in danger. This concession forced some of the Democratic representatives to have to choose between allowing what they feel is a severe restriction on a woman’s right to choose and having the whole piece of legislation scrapped all together. But the amendment passed 240 votes to 192, allowing for the passage of the whole bill.
These recent events have stirred up a lot of talk here at Southwestern, with students being on both sides of the issue.
Junior Sam Marsh stated about the bill, “While it is well-intentioned and has a few sound ideas, the bill is designed to mitigate the dysfunctions of the current system, rather than fixing the basic problems that create those dysfunctions in the first place.”
On the other side, “It is really great that our government finally got on the ball with healthcare. Although it has yet to be shown if this bill will actually do what it says and help Americans, I think that this is the right step to action. It’s about time we reformed healthcare in the U.S.,” says sophomore Kerry Spare.
The Colleges Against Cancer group is very excited about the passage of the bill as well, as it is a victory for those fighting against cancer. The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network feels that the bill has “the potential to take the fight against cancer in this country to a new level.”
“This vote brings the country one step closer to enacting comprehensive reform that advances our mission to reduce suffering and death related to cancer,” John R. Seffrin, PhD and chief executive officer of American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, said.
Now that the bill has gone through the House, it will be up to the Senate to pass their version of it as well before the combined version can be voted on in both chambers. President Obama has said that he is confident that the Senate will pass the bill, and is quoted to have said, “I look forward to signing comprehensive health insurance reform into law by the end of the year.”