In a narrow victory, the House of Representatives passed the Affordable Health Care for America Act in a 220-215 vote. The bill will now have to pass a Senate vote.
Health care reform has been a key point of President Barack Obama's agenda. The long-debated bill carries much of what he promised, and aims to bring health coverage to every American and an estimated 36 million people who are currently uninsured. It will also cut the federal budget deficit by $104 billion over the next 10 years, according to a Democratic National Committee press release.
“Thanks to the hard work of the House, we are just two steps away from achieving health insurance reform in America,” said Obama in a statement, adding that he is “absolutely confident” the bill will pass, and stating his intention to sign health insurance reform into law by the end of the year.
In the Democratic-majority House, 39 Democrats voted against the bill and one Republican voted for it, accounting for the narrow margin. It will need full support from Democrats in the Senate to pass. Democrats hold 60 seats of the 100-member Senate.
“The House bill is dead on arrival in the Senate,” said Republican Senator Lindsey Graham on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
There are differences between the bill voted for in the House and the bill currently in the Senate. If the bill passes the Senate vote, the House and Senate will then have to agree on a common bill in conference committee.
Few Republicans have supported the bill, while several Democrats have taken a stance against the bill. Among the points of their concern are the bill’s new taxes on the wealthy, the requirement that nearly all employers provide health care coverage for their employees, and a government-run “public option” in the bill.
Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council president and CEO Karen Kerrigan issued a statement that said, "Make no mistake, those voting for H.R. 3962 voted to burden our nation's job creators with higher costs and crushing taxes and penalties.”
It has also struck a sore spot with health insurance providers, with some of their largest concerns being the option of government-run health coverage, and the end to certain insurance-industry practices such as refusing coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions.
The pharmaceutical industry has shown similar dismay.
“We are disappointed, but not surprised by today’s vote—an uneasiness echoed by millions of hardworking Americans as well as nearly half of the members of the U.S. House of Representatives who voted against the bill,” said Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America Senior Vice President Ken Johnson in a statement. He said it would cost tens of thousands of jobs in the pharmaceutical industry.
The medical community has taken a very different stance. American Medical Association (AMA) President J. James Rohack said, in a statement, “The bill will significantly expand health insurance coverage to Americans; empower patient and physician decision making; institute meaningful insurance market reforms; make substantial investments in quality; institute prevention and wellness initiatives; provide incentives to states that adopt certificate of merit and/or early offer liability reforms; and reduce administrative burdens.”
American Public Health Association (APHA) executive director Georges Benjamin issued a similarly positive statement. The APHA is a policy and health care advocacy organization composed of health care professionals.