In separate votes on Sunday night, House Democrats approved the Senate health reform bill (HR 3590), which now proceeds to President Obama to be signed into law, and the so-called "corrections" bill (HR 4872), which contains a series of changes favored by the House, the New York Times reports.
The House voted 219-212 in favor of the Senate bill, with 34 Democrats and all Republicans voting against the measure (Pear/Herszenhorn, New York Times, 3/21).
The House then voted 220-211 to approve the corrections bill, which now proceeds to the Senate for final approval. Thirty-three Democrats joined all Republican members in voting against the corrections bill (Epstein, CQ Today, 3/22).
According to the Wall Street Journal, a promise earlier in the day by President Obama to issue an executive order on abortion helped ensure that Democrats had enough votes to pass the measures. The order will clarify that no federal funds can go toward abortion (Hitt/Adamy, Wall Street Journal, 3/22).
According to The Hill, the move helped secure the votes of at least eight anti-abortion Democrats who had declined to vote for the Senate bill. Democrats needed 216 votes to ensure passage of the Senate bill and the "corrections" measure (Allen/Young, The Hill, 3/21).
The House also voted 232-199 to defeat an attempt by Republicans to send the corrections bill back to the House Budget Committee to add tougher language on federal funding for abortion services similar to a special provision in the House bill (HR 3962) (CQ Today, 3/22).
Obama Thanks House Democrats for Votes
In a televised address from the White House following the votes, Obama said, "I want to thank every member of Congress who stood up tonight with courage and conviction to make health care reform a reality," noting, "I know this wasn't an easy vote for a lot of people. But it was the right vote" (Feller, AP/Washington Post, 3/22).
He added, "This isn't radical reform, but it is major reform" (New York Times, 3/21). According to the AP/Post, Obama on Sunday spent much of Sunday in the White House's West Wing, receiving updates on the proceedings in the House chamber and making calls to undecided House Democrats to secure their support (AP/Washington Post, 3/22).
Details of the Legislation
The Democrats' health reform package would extend health insurance coverage to 32 million uninsured residents at the cost of $940 billion over 10 years, according to an updated analysis by the Congressional Budget Office.
The measure still would leave 23 million U.S. residents without coverage in 2019, one-third of whom would be undocumented immigrants (New York Times, 3/21).
The measure also would lower the federal deficit by $143 billion over the first 10 years and by more than $1 trillion over the second 10-year period (Dennis/Newmyer, Roll Call, 3/21).
According to Reuters, some provisions in the legislation would take effect almost immediately and continue through 2018. Within its first year, the legislation would:
- Prohibit insurance companies from rescinding the coverage policies of consumers who become ill;
- Ban health insurers from denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions;
- Eliminate lifetime coverage limits and restrict annual coverage limits;
- Allow young adults to remain under their parents' health plans until age 26;
- Provide uninsured adults with pre-existing conditions the opportunity to obtain coverage through a new program that would expire in 2014, when the new state-based insurance exchanges begin operating;
- Provide eligible seniors a $250 rebate to bridge the "doughnut hole" coverage gap in the Medicare prescription drug benefit;
- Give some small businesses a tax credit to help them provide coverage to employees; and
- Implement a 10% tax on indoor tanning services, beginning July 1 (Smith, Reuters, 3/19).