The House Committee on Energy and Commerce passed an “historic” healthcare reform bill late Friday, breaking a two-week deadlock between Democrats and Republicans that threatened to derail one of President Barack Obama’s top domestic issues.
The bill passed by a vote of 31 to 28. No Republicans voted in favor of the bill and five Democrats voted against it. The Democrats who voted against the bill were Reps. Rick Boucher, Virginia., Bart Stupak, Michigan, Jim Matheson, Utah, John Barrow, Georgia, and Charles Melancon, Louisiana.
The passage of H.R. 3200, which committee chairman Henry Waxman called “historic,” now sets the stage for a floor vote in the fall. Waxman’s panel is the third and final House committee to pass legislation to overhaul the healthcare system. In gearing up for a floor vote in September, congressional leaders will need to combine H.R. 3200 with the other two bills approved by committees on Ways and Means and Education and Labor.
“I was extremely honored to vote in favor of H.R. 3200, the ‘America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009,'” said Congressman John Dingell, D-Michigan, the sponsor of the bill, whose father proposed universal healthcare more than half-a-century ago. “H.R. 3200 is a strong piece of legislation that will meet the challenges facing American families, business, and government resulting from the crushing costs of health care.”
Activist groups are still hoping for to win support for a single-payer option under H.R. 676. [Please see David Swanson’s special reports for The Public Record on the single-payer solution here and here.]
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would allow a vote on the single-payer option after Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-NY, agreed to remove an amendment he proposed for inclusion in the Energy Committee’s bill to create a universal healthcare plan for the country.
In a news release, Weiner said, “Single-payer is a better plan and now it is on center stage. Americans have a clear choice. Their Member of Congress will have a simpler, less expensive and smarter bill to choose. I am thrilled that the Speaker is giving us that choice.”
Other last minute changes to the bill, according to the Associated Press, included an agreement to “cap increases in the cost of insurance sold under the bill, and also to give the federal government authority to negotiate directly with drug companies for lower prices under Medicare.
“The new provisions were part of an intensive effort Democrats made in recent days to satisfy the conflicting demands of liberals and conservatives on the panel, unity necessary to overcome a solid wall of Republican opposition,” the AP reported.
Immediately following the vote, according to The Hill:
“The National Republican Congressional Committee issued a release criticizing Rep. Baron Hill (D-Ind.) for supporting the bill. Republicans are targeting Hill’s seat in the 2010 election.”
Waxman said he is confident the bill will pass come when it reaches the floor and he believes moderate and progressive Democrats and even some Republicans will support it.
The bill would overhaul the insurance, pharmaceutical and medical industries. It requires all Americans to purchase health insurance.
Waxman said the legislation “will deliver the results the nation’s health care system so desperately needs: lower costs, better quality, and broader coverage. I hope that when we return from [August] recess, the House will act expeditiously to enact this bill into law.”
According to an news release issued by the Energy and Commerce Committee after the bill passed, H.R. 3200 “contains critical insurance reforms to protect consumers.”
“Insurance companies will no longer be able to discriminate on the basis of pre-existing conditions or drop coverage for those who become seriously ill. Insurers will no longer be able to discriminate on the basis of gender or selectively refuse to renew coverage. And they will be required to fully cover regular checkups and preventative care without cost-sharing and abide by limits on how much they can charge for out-of-pocket expenses.”
The bill would “also changes the structural costs in the health care system. It lays the groundwork for major reforms in the delivery system that will over time help improve the quality of care and put us on a path towards constraining the cost of our health care system. The bill is fully paid for and is deficit neutral.”
The key principles of legislation include, among other things, according to the Energy Committee’s news release:
The legislation will ensure that Americans have portable, secure health care plans – so that they won’t lose care if their employer drops their plan or they lose their job.
Third, the legislation will ensure that Americans of all ages, from young children to retirees have access to greater quality of care by focusing on prevention, wellness, and strengthening programs that work.
Fourth, the bill will ensure that individuals, employers, and the federal government all share responsibility for a quality and affordable health care system.
Fifth, the legislation will put the interests of consumers first, protect them from any problems in getting and keeping health care coverage, and reduce waste, fraud, and abuse.
"[DNC Chair Tom Perez] has gotten instructions from Bill Clinton not to let the party go to the Bernie Sanders folks." - Jonathan Allen, co-author of Shattered, revealing new material in the upcoming paperback release pic.twitter.com/dLEnwl7kIc— HootHootBerns 🌹🐦 (@HootHootBerns) May 3, 2018