Health Care Reform: How it Passed and What Comes Next

By Christine Cupaiuolo — March 22, 2010

In case you slept through Sunday’s exciting (no, really! it was!) health care debate on the House floor, here’s a look at what went down — and, most importantly, what health care reform means for the country and for you.

The Nut Graph

The House approved the Senate bill by a vote of 219-212, with 34 Democrats voting against and zero Republican support. The bill expands insurance coverage to 32 million additional people; approximately 23 million will remain uninsured, about one-third of whom are undocumented immigrants.

Passage was sealed once President Obama agreed to issue an executive order reaffirming restrictions against the public funding of abortions.

So it Came Down to Support for Women’s Reproductive Health?

Pretty much. As The Daily Beast’s Dana Goldstein writes: “It’s difficult not to be moved by the … number of uninsured people who will have access to less-expensive coverage after reform. But we should all understand that the bill was passed at the expense of poor women’s reproductive rights.”

Raising Women’s Voices, which has done a great job advocating for and reporting on health care reform, has a reaction round-up from reproductive rights advocates (and a statement on the final bill). Some organizations, angry with the Senate bill’s language on abortion coverage, expressed disappointment with Obama’s order. Terry O’Neil, president of NOW, issued a highly critical statement, as did Stephanie Poggi, executive director of the National Network of Abortion Funds.

The only thing worse would have been the original House language proposed by Sen. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) — who agreed to support the Senate version when given the cloak of the executive order.

I Heard Stupak’s a Baby Killer

The Republicans initially lacked the maturity to ‘fess up to who shouted “baby killer” while Stupak, now an enemy of the Republicans, was speaking on the House floor. Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Tex.) finally came forward. Neugebauer, notes the Washington Post, is otherwise known for co-sponsoring a bill requiring presidential candidates to produce birth certificates to prove their eligibility for office.

It’s Not Over Till It’s Over

President Obama is expected to sign the bill on Tuesday, then the Senate takes up debate on the bill’s amendments. What does that mean? In short, House members disagreed with a bunch of items in the Senate bill and, during careful negotiation prior to last night’s vote, both sides agreed to modifications. The House approved the reconciliation measure, essentially trusting that the Senate will do the same. Christina Bellantoni explains all at TPM.

The National Partnership for Women & Families would like you to urge the Senate to pass reconciliation and finish the job.

This is What Change Looks Like

Writing at AlterNet, Adele Stan has a great re-cap of this weekend’s protests (red scare and all), and the deal-making and high drama that resulted in the bill’s passage.

“This isn’t radical reform. But it is major reform,” Obama said after the House vote. “This legislation will not fix everything that ails our health care system. But it moves us decisively in the right direction. This is what change looks like.”

The Immediate Effects Of the Health Reform Bill

That’s the title of this Kaiser Health News story, a good place to start for a discussion of  the “early deliverables” — benefits that will kick in this year:

* Dependent children could remain on their parents’ health insurance plans until age 26.

* Senior citizens would get more help paying for drugs in Medicare.

* People with health problems that left them uninsurable could qualify for coverage through a federal program.

* Ban on lifetime limits on medical coverage.

* Tax credits for businesses.

Could You Be More Specific?

I found a terrific analysis from the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce that demonstrates the impact health care reform will have on each and every Congressional district. For example, in my district — Ill.-5 — the bill is predicted to, among other things:

* Give tax credits and other assistance to up to 142,000 families and 14,100 small businesses to help them afford coverage.

* Extend coverage to 69,500 uninsured residents.

* Guarantee that 13,500 residents with pre-existing conditions can obtain coverage.

* Protect 1,500 families from bankruptcy due to unaffordable health care costs.

* Allow 67,000 young adults to obtain coverage on their parents’ insurance plans.

* Provide millions of dollars in new funding for 23 community health centers.

(Shout-out to my representative, Mike Quigley, who stayed a strong supporter of women’s health throughout the debate.)

But What Does it Mean for Me?

That depends. The New York Times has a good interactive graphic that breaks it down based on whether you’re currently insured (and how you’re covered) — or if you don’t have health insurance.

Who Else Benefits?

Glad you asked! The short answer: hospitals and drug makers. And eventually doctors. For insurers, it’s a mixed bag, but they won’t have to worry about competition from a government-run public option — it didn’t make the Senate bill. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) says maybe this year. To be continued …

Remind Me Again How We Got Here

Thank House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. And let’s hear it for Catholic nuns, who demonstrated greater reading comprehension skills (and more common sense) than Catholic bishops.

If you want the long view, check out this interactive timeline on the history of health reform efforts in the United States.

Last Question: What’s Up With Pelosi’s Giant Gravel?

MSNBC’s First Read notes that Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), who used the same gavel when the House voted on Medicare in 1965, gave the gavel to Pelosi to use on this momentous occasion. I think it suited her well.

More questions? Ask them in the comments, or leave links to blogs and news coverage.

6 responses to “Health Care Reform: How it Passed and What Comes Next”

  1. And what about people of all ages who have been ordering drugs from Canadian pharmacies — much cheaper than in the US — who will no longer be allowed to?

    ‘Prohibit reimportation’ iirc is the official term.

  2. Great job, Christine. Excellent, concise summary. The legislation is a giant step forward. While not near as much as what it should have been, a universal, single-payer system, that was never a viable political option. We should remember that Social Security also had a very modest beginning, and now it is the underpinning for a financially secure retirement.

  3. I agree with Eric – excellent analysis, and although this certainly isn’t the bill progressives had hoped for, it’s an improvement on the current system and a great first step…Let’s hope that it is just a first step.

  4. Okay, my premium for individual coverage now is $25,000 a year (yes, you read that right); my premium was projected to increase 35-40% over the next five years under previous law; and now it’s supposed to increase an additional 10-13%. The prohibition on rescission is not a change from existing law. This is helpful how, exactly?

  5. Thanks, Christine, for a great round-up of this historic legislative event!

    Raising Women’s Voices, of course, have mixed feelings about it which makes us especially grateful for encouraging words from folks like you. Thank you. We are working on a new fact sheet on the good, bad, ugly. Onward!

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