Following some last-minute horse trading that revolved around the abortion issue, the U.S. House of Representatives approved by a strict 219-212 party-line vote on March 21 the Senate’s version of healthcare reform legislation, sending it to President Obama for his signature.
Taking place after a yearlong debate, the Sunday House vote on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (H.R. 3590) took place only after the White House said it would issue an executive order that will “reaffirm its consistency with longstanding restrictions on the use of federal funds for abortion.” That promise was apparently enough to convince a certain number of anti-abortion Democratic legislators to vote for the bill.
The bill’s sponsors say that the legislation would expand healthcare coverage to an estimated 38 million more Americans than are currently covered, would prohibit insurers from denying coverage to patients with pre-existing conditions, would mandate coverage for most Americans, would create a small business tax credit for employers with fewer than 25 employees for purchasing healthcare coverage, and would penalize employees with more than 50 employees who don’t offer coverage, among many different provisions (See this summary of the bill here by Dow Jones for more information on the bill.).
The House also passed a reconciliation bill on March 21, H.R. 4872, the Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010, that now goes to the Senate for approval, which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) said he had the votes for passage, to resolve some of the funding differences for reform between the Senate and House.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated on March 19 that passage of HR 3590, HR 4872, and a third healthcare reform bill, the Medicare Physicians Payment Reform Act of 2009 (H.R. 3961 “would add $59 billion to budget deficits over the 2010-2019 period.”