U.S. House clears historic health care bill

U.S. House clears historic health care bill

WASHINGTON (AP) – The U.S. House of Representatives has made its final vote on the historic Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and – with a few changes – the reform passed.

The Act will extend insurance to 32 million people and achieve nearly universal coverage in the United States of America. The Act also bans insurers from denying coverage on the basis of pre-existing medical conditions and is intended to crack down on insurance company abuses.

Republicans tried a procedural move to redo the bill moments after the House had approved the Senate version with a vote of 219 to 212. Republicans argued the legislation would permit the use of federal money to pay for abortions. A last-minute abortion deal, where President Barack Obama issued an executive order pledging no federal funds would be used for elective abortion, helped sway the needed votes from anti-abortion Democrats.

Here's what the bill will cover when the Senate signs off: 

  • Tens of millions of uninsured people will be covered, adding Medicaid coverage reportedly for families of four making up to $29,000. For some, the benefits would start almost immediately.
  • As soon as the President signs the bill, seniors will be eligible for rebates to help close the gap in coverage for prescription pills.
  • In six months, no insurance company can drop you if you get sick.
  • It will take another four years before all adults can get insurance without concern for pre-existing conditions.
  • No insurance company can limit the amount of coverage you get in a lifetime.
  • Children will be able to stay on their parent's insurance until they turn 26.
  • No insurance company can refuse to insure children because they have a pre-existing condition.
  • All uninsured Americans must have coverage or face a fine, though government subsidies will help with cost.

This marks a climactic chapter in the century-long quest for health-care reform to include nearly all Americans. Obama watched the vote in the White House's Roosevelt Room with Vice President Joe Biden and about 40 staff aides. When the long-sought 216th vote came in – the magic number needed for passage – the room burst into applause and hugs. An exultant President exchanged a high-five with his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel.

Widely viewed as dead two months ago, this health-care reform passed in the Senate this past week and then went to the House for its vote Sunday evening. The House did make some changes to the Senate's bill, so those changes – known as reconciliation – will be heading back to the Senate for a vote expected this coming week. Democrat leaders in the Senate have said they have the 51-plus votes to pass it.

The changes eliminate targeted provisions for specific states in the main health care bill. The move also softens a tax on high-value insurance plans opposed by organized labor.

Additionally, the new changes include an education provision that is a domestic priority for President Barack Obama. It increases college assistance for needy students and ends government reliance on private lenders for higher-education loans.    

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