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Senate Passes Historic Bill to Reform the U.S. Health Care System

December 24, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

By a vote of 60 to 39, the Senate early this morning officially approved health care legislation designed to meet President Obama’s goals of reducing health care costs, increasing choices for consumers and guaranteeing access to quality, affordable insurance for all Americans. All 60 Democrats in the Senate, plus the two Independents, voted in favor of the bill. All 39 Republicans who were present voted “no.” Sen. Jim Bunning [R, KY] skipped the vote.

This morning’s vote ends 25 days of consecutive debate, the second longest such run in Senate history. It is the first time the Senate has been in session on Christmas Eve since 1985

The bill would require all Americans to obtain health insurance, provide new subsidies to help low and middle-income people purchase insurance, expand Medicaid coverage to millions more low-income Americans, create new “exchanges” for comparison shopping health care plans, ban insurance companies from denying coverage based on “pre-existing conditions” and, to pay for it all, tax the most expensive health care policies.

Find all kinds of info about the bill, read the full text, follow news and blog coverage and more:

H.R. 3590 – Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act>>

The Senate has been working on versions of their health care bill since June. The story since then has been about the Democratic leadership shifting the bill to the right in order to find a sweet spot that could win 60 votes, the number needed to get beyond a Republican filibuster. The biggest concessions were made to conservative members of their caucus who were mainly opposed to a proposal in the bill to create a new government run insurance option (a.k.a. the public option). After trying out all sorts of ways to weaken the public option and make it more palatable for the conservative Democrats, the leadership decided the only way win over the conservatives was to drop the public option entirely. The final version that was passed today doesn’t include even a trace of the public option plan.

To balance it out a bit and retain the support of liberals, the leadership added a few sweeteners in the final version including more funding for Community Health Center and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The final bill also bulked up some of the consumer protections in the bill. For example, patients would be guaranteed the ability to appeal coverage denials and requiring insurance companies to spend at least 80 percent of premiums on actual health care. Only 20 percent of premiums max could be used for marketing, administration, underwriting and profit.

According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the bill passed today would expand health insurance coverage to 31 million more people over the next ten years who would otherwise not have insurance under the status quo. Fifteen million of those newly insured people would be covered under expansions to Medicaid and CHIP. The rest would either buy their insurance on the new Exchanges (with or without government subsidies) or get coverage through their employers. The CBO has also estimated that the bill would reduce federal deficits by $130 billion over the next ten years.

The Senate bill now has to be reconciled with the House’s health care bill (H.R. 3962), and the same final version needs to be passed once more in both chambers. The differences between the two bills are significant. The House bill contains a public option, for example. It also would use a tax increase on the wealthy as a revenue raiser instead of the Senate’s plan to tax expensive insurance plans. In January, a joint House-Senate conference committee made up of about a dozen committee chairman will start meeting to iron out the differences. It is expected that conference committee will keep the final bill close to the Senate bill in order to preserve the delicate 60-vote support that will be needed once again for passing the conference committee bill.

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  • LeMat 12/24/2009 4:49am

    Now you shall reap it. I hope you like your bill being overturned in courts… repeatedly.

  • Comm_reply
    tigercosmos 12/25/2009 2:49am

    What specifically is the constitutional challenge being put forth – I have not read anything about it – what specifics and under what ground?

  • Comm_reply
    Senate101 12/26/2009 4:48am

    I thought about our previous Health Care w/ President Bush. If people had to PURCHASE Health Care, none of the lower class would have any Health Care. But, it would prevent illigeal immigrants from having Health Care which I believe is great! Again, my opinon. But, if they government runs Health Care, how will this end up?? Just sit down, and watch the movie…….

  • BKS01 12/24/2009 8:29am

    How many of the morons who voted for this WITHOUT taking the time read and research and honestly debate it openly invest their money or sign contracts that they have not thought about. Your childish walking the party lines and selling out our country will be remembered in the upcoming and future elections!!!

  • tigercosmos 12/25/2009 2:40am

    In reply to BKS01: After a summer of tea party town hall disruptions with constituents, thousands of opinion columns full of indignation, a year of appearances on morning talk shows to discuss the legislation, several meetings with the President and other administration members regarding the bill, even within the democratic party there was the continual hypercritical attacks from the left – from MSNBC, The Daily Show- more critical than even Fox. Inside both chambers this bill has been debated in five different committees in the house alone and many months of debates in both chambers – I would venture to guess there is not a Senator or House member that is not familiar with HR 3590 or HR3962. That is not to say republicans will remember or mention that the CBO states the final Senate version will reduce the federal deficit by $130 billion or liberals will understand that the public option does not have the votes in the Senate to pass and is thus not an option.

  • BKS01 12/25/2009 7:32am

    The bill was introduced on the Senate calender Oct.13 and opened for debate on Nov.21. Passed on Dec.24. I would argue that that is insufficient time for honest debate. The senators admit to not having read the bill and certainly do not have a complete understanding of same. We are aware of the CBO’s statements prior to and after be called to the Whitehouse. And it is also commonly known that the acounting for the ten year period is based on ten years of paying in and six years of paying out.
    While I am currently reading and studying the bill I have not completed the process and will reserve an open place for final judgement. I do not believe that the same would have been too much to ask of the persons who voted for this bill. Being right should have been more important than speed.

  • ccscowboy 12/26/2009 2:48am

    the fact that no real reform happened, IE: anti-trust removal, and Tort Reform.. all I can say is..

    YOUR FIRED !!!!!

  • right2descent 12/28/2009 4:13am

    Those who propose or endorse unconstitutional legislation are guilty of treason and must be dispatched as traitors.

  • jpw 02/13/2010 12:53pm

    Whenever you see a bunch of Politicians(especially Dodd) smiling,laughing and congratulating themselves at a podium…you should be very afraid of what they have planned for the serfdom underneath them.

    Attention Brainwashed Idiots: Notice the ruling class exempted themselves?

  • tekdiveraz 03/04/2010 10:14am

    House, Senate. Be ready come election time. Your ass will be grass and the CITIZENS of the United States of America will be driving the mower. We refuse to be subjects again. Learn from history or BECOME it.

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