House Passes Historic Health Care Reform Legislation

BY Hari Sreenivasan  March 21, 2010 at 11:27 PM EDT

The House of Representatives on Sunday passed a sweeping $940 billion health care bill in a historic vote that will dramatically change the U.S. health care system and expand health insurance coverage to 32 million more Americans over the next decade.

“Tonight’s vote is not a victory for any one party … it’s a victory for the American people. And it’s a victory for common sense,” President Obama said in a statement after the vote. He added: “This isn’t radical reform, but it is major reform. It will not fix everything that’s wrong with our system, but it will move us in the right direction. This is what change looks like.”

Watch excerpts of President Obama’s remarks after the House vote:

The vote capped a day of partisan debate and procedural maneuvering that lasted from 1 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. ET while protesters demonstrated on the grounds of the Capitol. In the end, 34 Democrats joined all 178 Republicans in opposing the measure.

Watch House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s final argument for the bill:

And House Minority Leader John Boehner’s closing argument against it:

The legislation passed in a multi-part vote. First, the House voted 219-212 to pass the health care reform bill that the Senate approved last December. Soon after, the chamber voted on a reconciliation bill — a package of amendments to the Senate bill agreed to by House and Senate Democratic leaders earlier this week. That bill passed by a 220-211 margin.

The Office of the House Clerk has the final vote tally for the Senate bill here and the Washington Post provides a graphic here.

While the bill is a victory for the Obama administration, some House Democrats may face repercussions when re-election time arrives. Politico looks at some of the lawmakers who took a risk with their vote here.

The final bill will cost $940 billion over the next 10 years, but will reduce the federal budget deficit by $143 billion over that same time period through a combination of new taxes and spending cuts, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The CBO released revised figures over the weekend that increased the deficit savings from $138 billion to $143 billion.

The legislation will require nearly every American to carry health insurance starting in 2014 and will impose a penalty fee on those who don’t. It will set up a series of state-based insurance exchange marketplaces where people who do not have access to employer-based insurance will be able to shop for plans, and will also offer new tax subsidies to make that insurance more affordable for millions of Americans who earn up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level.

It will also impose new regulations on the insurance industry, including barring insurance companies from denying coverage to patients based on pre-existing conditions, and barring companies from using technicalities to drop customers who become ill.

Many of the bill’s provisions, such as the insurance exchange marketplaces and new subsidies, won’t go into effect until 2014. But some of the new insurance regulations will begin this year, such as a provision that allows young adults up to age 26 to stay on their parents’ plans.

Kaiser Health News has posted this consumer’s guide to the health reform bill to help break down the details.

Read more about the provisions in the final reconciliation bill — as well as in the original House and Senate bills — in this comparison chart.

President Obama is expected to sign the Senate bill as early as Monday, at which point that bill will become law. That will set the stage for the Senate to take up the reconciliation bill with the final changes as soon as Tuesday. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has received a commitment from more than 50 Democratic Senators that they will vote for the reconciliation bill, although Republicans have vowed to mount procedural challenges to the bill.

We’ll have much more on the vote Monday on the NewsHour, both online and on-air — including an analysis of the historical significance and insight from experts on what you need to know about the legislation. And you can browse all the NewsHour’s recent coverage of the health reform date on our Rx for Reform page.