House passes health care bill

Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed the health care reform bill (H.R. 3962) with two votes to spare (220-215), with 39 Democrats voting against and Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao the lone Republican to vote for the bill. Here’s the final roll call.

This came in spite of some appalling behavior by some unruly Republicans, who refused to let the Democratic Women’s Caucus speak, even shouting them down at points.

A little more about the bill (thanks to the Congressional Budget Office and PICO Network):

  • It extends coverage to 36 million people who would otherwise be uninsured, achieving 96 percent coverage among non-elderly adults who are legal U.S. residents. In comparison, the Senate Finance version (proposed by Sen. Max Baucus) would cover only 29 million.
  • It also does much better than the Senate Finance version at setting premiums and out-of-pocket costs at levels that families–especially families at the lowest income levels–can actually afford.
  • According to CBO estimates, it would actually reduce the federal deficit by $104 billion over ten years.
  • It’s paid for by a 5.4% surtax on high-income individuals earning more than $500k annually for individuals and $1 million per year for families. Other savings will (hopefully!) come from making Medicare more efficient and requiring employers with payrolls above $500k to either provide coverage or pay a penalty.
  • It provides a public option in the health insurance exchange in order to control health care costs.

However …

  • The bill fails to eliminate the five year waiting period in Medicaid for documented immigrants, as was done with the Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
  • Many of the bill’s provisions don’t take effect until 2013, which is much longer than most of us would want or expect.

It’s not perfect. But it’s certainly stronger than the Senate Finance version with which the House bill will need to be merged, assuming Harry Reid can corral 60 votes in the Senate.

And it’s a start. Now let’s keep the ball rolling.

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