Congressional Democrats have stated that they would like to have health reform completed by the time Obama delivers his state of the union address in late January 2010. That’s quite a tight timeline, and although the process is far from over, the road to health care reform has been long and winding so far. Here, so where the legislation has gone, and an estimate of how long it will take to effect change if it passes.

Nov. 4, 2008: Senator Barack Obama from Illinois wins the presidential election on a platform of health reform, among other things.

Jan. 20, 2009: President Obama is inaugurated, and mentions health reform briefly in his inaugural speech.

July 16, 2009: In the House, the first plan passes in the Ways and Means Committee. In the Senate, a package is approved by the HELP Committee.

July 17, 2009: The House Education and Labor Committee passes its reform plan.

July 31, 2009: The House Energy and Commerce Committee approves its plan, making it the final plan in the House committee structure.

October 13, 2009: The Senate Finance Committee passes its health reform bill.

October 29, 2009: The three House bills are combined into one bill.

November 7. 2009: House bill heads to the floor for a one-day debate. Two amendments are considered, one is adopted. At the end of the day, lawmakers voted 220 to 215 in favor of the bill.

What’s left in the process:

  • The Senate will debate their version of the bill, which is likely to take several weeks. Filibusters – a tactic for delaying the legislative process by making long speeches, which may have little to do with the point at hand – are extremely likely with such a hot-button issue.
  • The Senate will vote on the bill; it needs a simple majority to pass.
  • If the Senate version passes, both the House and Senate bills will be sent to a Conference Committee, which will look at the two bills and draft a compromise bill for both houses to consider.
  • The new bill will be sent to the House and Senate for another round of debate, and each house will need to pass the new bill with a simple majority.
  • If the bill passes both the House and the Senate as it was proposed by the Conference Committee, it will be sent to the president for his approval or veto.
  • Once passed, the legislation will take a few years to go into effect, despite reports by the Kaiser Family Foundation that many Americans believe the legislation would take effect within a year.

Heather Trese is the associate editor of the Agent’s Sales Journal. She can be reached at HTrese@AgentMedia.com or 800-933-9449 ext. 225.