Rep. John Lewis Applauds Historic Passage of Health Care Reform
Washington--Tonight by a vote of 219 to 212 the U.S. House of Representatives walked into history by passing H.R. 3490, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the first federal legislative victory in the cause of health care reform after nearly 100 years of efforts. The House also passed H.R. 4872, the Health Care & Education Affordability Reconciliation Act , by a vote of 220 to 33, which amends the H.R. 3490, the Senate version of the health care bill and reconciles differences between the House and Senate bills. Despite rancor, name-calling, and diversionary tactics, the Democratic majority was able to win the fight to end some of the punishing practices that can leave, even those with health insurance, financially debilitated when they become ill.
Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) made this statement tonight during debate in favor of the bill:
“Mr. Speaker, this may be the most important vote that we cast as members of this body. We have a moral obligation today to make health care a right, and not a privilege. There are those who have told us to start over. There are those who have told us to wait. They have told us to be patient. We cannot wait, we cannot be patient. The American people need health care, and they need it now. On this day, at this hour, stand with the American people and not with the big insurance companies. On this day, at this moment, in this chamber, answer the call of history and pass health care. Give the American people a victory.”
Largest deficit reduction measure passed in years
Contrary to other reports, the bill is fully paid for and does not add one dime to the federal debt. In fact, a recent Congressional Budget Office estimate projects the bill will reduce the federal deficit by $1.3 trillion over 20 years-- $128 billion in the first ten years and $1.2 trillion in the second ten years. It is the most significant deficit reduction measure passed in more than a decade.
Major Provisions of the Bill
· Makes health insurance affordable for the middle class and small businesses—the largest tax cut for health care in history – reducing premiums and out-of-pocket costs.
· Gives millions of Americans the same private insurance choices that members of Congress will have — through a new competitive health insurance market that keeps costs down.
· Holds insurance companies accountable to keep premiums down, prevent denials of care and coverage, including for pre-existing conditions.
· Improves Medicare benefits with lower prescription drug costs for those in the ‘donut hole,’ better chronic care, free preventive care, and nearly a decade more of solvency for Medicare.
· Ends overpayments to insurance companies, reining in waste, fraud and abuse, paying for quality over quantity of care.
Immediate Benefits of the Bill
The American people will see the benefits of this legislation as soon as the President signs it into law and in the months following.
· Insurance companies will also be prohibited from dropping people when they get sick and placing restrictive lifetime or annual limits on coverage.
· Small businesses that provide coverage to their employees will be eligible for a tax credit of up to 35% of premiums;
· Americans who are uninsured because of a pre-existing condition will be able to buy affordable coverage through a temporary high-risk pool;
· Insurers will be banned from denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions;
· Young adults will be able to remain on their parents’ insurance policy until their 26th birthday;
Benefits to the Fifth District See link to learn more about specific gains for 5th District residents.
· Nothing in the bill reduces Medicare benefits for seniors. Rather than undermining Medicare, this bill strengthens it. It is estimated that up to 20 percent of Medicare spending, as well as private health care spending, goes to waste, inefficiency, fraud, and unnecessary procedures. It is this spending that is targeted for elimination in this bill. The Medicare savings in the bill are simply a 5 percent reduction overall in what Medicare is expected to spend over the next 10 years. Much of the cost savings achieved are reinvested into Medicare – improving benefits and extending the life of the Medicare Trust Fund by nine years. This bill strengthens and helps to stabilize Medicare.
· This legislation expands private health insurance in America, and is based on increasing choice and competition -- providing for new marketplaces where the uninsured, small business employees, and the self-employed will be able to choose among a variety of private insurance plans. Many will receive tax credits to help them afford the health plan they choose. It is not a government takeover of the health care system.
· There is nothing in the bill that enables federal dollars to be utilized for abortions. Once anti-abortion proponents had the opportunity to closely examine the bill, they realized that criticisms related to abortion were unfounded. The bill has been endorsed by the Catholic Health Association, Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, Faithful America, and Evangelicals for Social Action, and 360 other organizations. The author of the Stupak Amendment voted for the passage of the bill.
· The bill does not create more expenses for small businesses, but it helps to relieve the burden of health care costs for those businesses.
The status quo is unsustainable for the small business community – 60 percent of America’s uninsured, or 28 million people – are small business owners, workers, and their families. Insurance costs for small businesses have increased 129 percent since 2000.
The bill provides $40 billion in tax credits for small businesses to help them offer coverage to their employees and exempts 96 percent of all businesses from the shared responsibility requirement.
· The shared responsibility requirement in the health reform legislation is designed to be fair to all Americans. Under the House health reform bill, the shared responsibility requirement is: only for those who do not already have health insurance but can afford it. The vast majority of Americans, more than 85 percent, already have health insurance, and therefore would not be affected by this requirement. Secondly, the bill is designed to ensure that the shared responsibility requirement is never imposed on those who cannot afford to purchase health insurance · This bill does not violate the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution. Once Congress enacts an individual mandate – in the form of a fee on persons who can afford to buy health insurance but refuse to do so -- no state law can override that mandate.
The Reconciliation bill will now go to the Senate where it will debate reconciliation for 20 hours. However the process often takes much longer, as motions and amendments may be offered and considered without debate after the 20 hours has expired. Since this bill cannot be filibustered, the minority’s only way to influence the outcome of the bill is to offer amendment after amendment in a process that has become known as “vote-a-rama.” After the bill is passed by the Senate, it must be signed into law by the President.
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