Health care reform passes House

by   Posted on March 25th, 2010 in Uncategorized

By Ethan Vaughan, Asst. News Editor

aIt was a close one, but the United States House of Representatives made history Sunday evening when the chamber narrowly passed President Barack Obama’s health care reform bill.

The piece of legislation, which cleared the Senate late last year, squeaked through the lower house as Democratic leaders, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, rallied support among lawmakers to attain the 216 votes needed for passage of the controversial measure.

The bill, which has an initial cost of $940 billion, is estimated by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to reduce the national deficit by $143 billion over the course of ten years.

Opponents of the landmark legislation have dubbed it a government takeover of the American health care system and claimed that it will fundamentally restructure one sixth of the U.S. economy.

When President Obama appeared on the campus of George Mason University last Friday to speak at the Patriot Center, however, he was quick to dismiss such notions.
“You’ve heard that this is a government takeover,” Obama said to the crowd of more than 8,000. “You’ve heard we’re going to kill granny. You’ve heard that most of this will benefit illegal immigrants. Those are crazy ideas. The fact of the matter is that this is common sense reform.”

The president brought attention to some of the parts of the legislation that would directly affect young individuals, including a provision allowing even non-dependents to remain on their parents’ health insurance until the age of 26.

“As you start your lives and careers, the last thing you should worry about is going broke or your parents going broke because you got sick,” Obama said. “[This bill] will allow you to stay on your parents’ plan until you’re 26.”

Another bill, one that the president did not mention in his speech, would end government subsidies for the student loan.

If enacted, the measure, which The Washington Post called “the biggest change in college assistance programs since Congress created them in the 1960s,” will lead to school loans being distributed directly from the state to the students instead of going through intermediaries.

It is estimated that the bill will save $67 billion between 2011 and 2020. The student aid issue was included with the hope of attracting more votes from the House of Representatives.

At Mason, President Obama said that the health reform proposal would make three basic changes to the system: health insurance companies would be subject to more regulation, those who could not afford insurance would be permitted to engage in collective bargaining and, the president said, costs would be lowered.

“We will end the worst practices of the insurance companies,” Obama said. “This is a patient’s bill of rights on steroids. [If the legislation passes], thousands of uninsured people will be able to purchase health insurance. The insurance companies will be banned forever from denying coverage to children with preexisting conditions and banned from dropping your coverage when you get sick.”

Other tenets of the legislation included credits — which President Obama called “the largest middle class tax cut for healthcare in American history” — for families of four making up to $88,000, a ceiling on out-of-pocket expenses, increased taxes on more expensive insurance plans, as well as taxes on investment income for individuals making more than $200,000 a year ($250,000 for families) and a mandate that almost all Americans purchase health insurance.

The president derided what he called traditional Washington politics and cast the debate in terms of a moral decision.

“Reporting in Washington is like watching SportsCenter,” the president joked. “Who’s up, who’s down, who’s going at who. There’s been so much misinformation out there and the environment has been so toxic. I don’t know if the polls are going to go down or go up, but I know that this bill will be enormously important for America’s future. In just a few days, a century-long struggle will culminate in a historic vote.”

Obama made reference to presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman and Lyndon B. Johnson, and compared the current struggle to pass health care reform to past efforts at founding Social Security and ensuring civil rights for all Americans during the 1960s.

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