House Panel OKs Healthcare Reform Bill, Setting the Stage For Floor Vote

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:

  • If an individual likes their current plan, they will be able to keep it.
  • For individuals who either aren’t currently covered, or want to enroll in a new health care plan, the proposal will establish a health care exchange where consumers can select from a menu of affordable, quality health care options: either a new public health insurance option or a plan offered by private insurers.
  • This new marketplace will reduce costs, create competition that leads to better care for every American, and keep private insurers honest. Patients and doctors will have control over decisions about their health care, instead of insurance companies.

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.

  • Every American who receives coverage through the exchange will have a plan that includes standardized, comprehensive and quality health care benefits.
  • It will end increases in premiums or denials of care based on pre-existing conditions, race, or gender, and limited age rating (2:1).
  • The proposal will also eliminate co-pays for preventive care, cap out-of-pocket expenses, and guarantee catastrophic coverage that protects every American from bankruptcy.

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.

  • The proposal guarantees that every child in America will have health care coverage that includes dental and vision benefits.
  • It will provide better preventative and wellness care. Every health care plan offered through the exchange will cover preventative care.
  • By growing the health care workforce, the proposal will ensure that more doctors and nurses are available to provide quality care as more Americans get coverage.
  • The proposal strengthens Medicare and Medicaid so that seniors, people with disabilities and low-income Americans receive better quality of care and see lower prescription drug costs and out-of-pocket expenses.

Fourth, the bill will ensure that individuals, employers, and the federal government all share responsibility for a quality and affordable health care system.

  • Employers who currently offer coverage will be able to continue offering coverage to workers. Employers who don’t currently offer coverage could choose to cover their workers or pay a penalty.
  • All individuals would be required to get coverage, either through their employer or the exchange, or pay a penalty.
  • The federal government will provide affordability credits, available on a sliding scale for low- and middle-income individuals and families to make premiums affordable and reduce cost-sharing.

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.

  • The proposal provides complete transparency in plans in the health exchange so that consumers have the clear, complete information needed to select the plan that best meets their needs.
  • Additionally, it establishes Consumer Advocacy Offices as part of the exchange in order to protect consumers, answer questions, and assist with any problems related to their plans.
  • The proposal will identify and eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse by simplifying paperwork and other administrative burdens. Patients, doctors, nurses, insurance companies, providers, and employers will all encounter a streamlined, less confusing, more consumer friendly syst
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6 Responses for “House Panel OKs Healthcare Reform Bill, Setting the Stage For Floor Vote”

  1. Rain Burroughs says:

    I hope all will go to http://www.afterdowningstreet.org to find out why this is Single Payer Summer. Medicare for All!
    I love your reporting Jason, but this article doesn’t measure up with your other work. No mention of Single Payer?
    There is work to be done and we can do it, if we know what our options are and what active steps we all can take. We need to step it up or they will continue to step on us. I apologize in advance if don’t understand HR 3200 well enough. This could be a great thing, but from what I read above, it isn’t even close to HR 676.

  2. Hey Rain
    Appreciate your feedback. I am just reporting the breaking news as it is coming out of the committee. I am not taking a position on the bill one way or another. And as you can see two of David Swanson’s articles on Single Payer are prominently featured on our front page.

  3. Rain Burroughs says:

    As soon as I clicked on “post comment” I realized you are “reporting” and didn’t necessarily need to add anything about single payer. I want single payer out front everywhere in all health care discussions, so forgive me, and thanks for having David Swanson’s articles re single payer featured on your page.

  4. Rain Burroughs says:

    Thanks also for adding links to Single Payer articles.
    When do you sleep?

  5. Brittancus says:

    These politicians voted Against the Nathan Deal Amendment, that would Prevent Health Care Benefits to Illegal Aliens. Simply put–it’s not their BLOODY MONEY! So what! Do they care if taxpayers have to foot the behemoth bill, for anybody who snubs our laws and enters a sovereign country called America? The nationwide parasites are –CHEAP LABOR–businesses who could care less, because they pile up enormous profits. The corporate hierarchy have been having a field day–FOR DECADES. A foreign national gets hurt, their service manager or whoever the underling is, drives the maimed person and relinquishes any responsibility by dumping them on the emergency hospital entranceway. BINGO! nothing to pay!

    Perhaps Americans should find some old shoddy clothes, no shave, no haircut and enter every emergency room in our country in the millions? Speak a lot of gibberish and carry no identification with a small splinter in their finger, a touch of a fever or any minor condition. By federal law the hospital will have an emergency on a–EMERGENCY. I am afraid Americans have been Lemmings going over a proverbial cliff, since who knows when? We just keep paying and paying even more to the IRS, to support–ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS. Try getting free health care in any other country, other than societies in the European Union? A FAT CHANCE! We are literary being taxed to death, to give welfare to the business overlords. These legislators have already tried to weaken E-Verify, local police action 287(g) and now unwinding the 1986 Simpson/Mazzoli enforcement law–which worked, but again was never enforced.

    Even our Democrats who are trying to engineer health care for every American—INCLUDED 20 PLUS ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS AND THEIR LARGE FAMILIES. Here are 29 Judas Iscariot’s, who sold the American people out–for a lot more than 13 pieces of silver? HUNDREDS OF BILLIONS OF DOLLARS EVERY YEAR. Capps (D-CA), Eshoo (D-CA), Harman (D-CA), Matsui (D-CA), McNerney (D-CA), Waxman (D-CA), DeGette (D-CO), Murphy (D-CT), Castor (D-FL), Rush (D-IL), Schakowsky (D-IL), Braley (D-IA), Sarbanes (D-MD), Markey (D-MA), Dingell (D-MI), Stupak (D-MI), Pallone (D-NJ), Weiner (D-NY), Butterfield (D-NC), Space (D-OH), Sutton (D-OH), Doyle (D-PA), Gordon (D-TN), Gonzalez (D-TX), Green (D-TX),Welch (D-VT), Christensen (D-VI), Inslee (D-WA) and Baldwin (D-WI). I’m afraid I would be banned if I used the right epithet, when leaving a comment for these so called lawmakers?

    These are the betrayers of–ALL–taxpayers. These 29 traitors gave illegal immigrants the right to pilfer your billfold and purse, while they sit in their Washington office collecting their 6 figure salaries. REMEMBER THEM AND THROW THEM OUT! DEMAND NO AMNESTY! NO FAMILY UNIFICATION KNOWN AS CHAIN MIGRATION! BUILD THE ORIGINAL FENCE! NO MORE HEALTH CARE OR ANY OTHER KIND OF BENEFITS FOR ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS. CLOSE THE BORDER AND STATION THE NATIONAL GUARD. $2.5 TRILLION DOLLARS, JUST IN RETIREMENT BENEFITS? Learn uncorrupted facts at NUMBERSUSA. For myself and family! I am for any health care re-organization, as long as it doesn’t smell of copious profiteering and corruption, like the majority of private insurers do?

    Copy, Paste and Distribute freely

  6. factometer says:

    Just wondering if you read the bill so you could write your own opinion of the 5 key principals. I see you stated you are not pro or con, just reporting.
    But when I read your 5 key principals – it sounds like a perfect utopia, which means, you simply republished pro-bill propodanda. That’s not “news”.
    I prefer News, and better yet, an informed opinion based on research – not swallowing some ideal, hook-line-and sinker. This is real life, and the consequences are steep. Take more responsibility. Point out landmines.

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