Late Sunday night, the United States House of Representatives passed the much-debated healthcare reform bill in a 219-212 vote, with all the Republicans, and thirty-four Democrats, voting against its passage. The bill, which instigates the most dramatic changes to our healthcare system in four decades, now goes to President Obama for his signature, which will turn it into law. It has already been approved by the Senate.
Changes provided by the healthcare reform bill include the extension of health coverage to 32 million previously-uninsured Americans, as well as the imposition of new strictures and taxes on the insurance industry. One crucial change is that insurers will no longer be permitted to deny coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions.
The vote was the culmination of many battles between Democrats and Republicans, which had taken over Congress during the last year, and resulted in downticks in President Obama’s approval ratings.
Speaking from the White House after the vote, President Obama said, “Tonight, at a time when the pundits said it was no longer possible, we rose above the weight of our politics.”
He also said, “This legislation will not fix everything that ails our healthcare system, but it moves us decisively in the right direction. This is what change looks like.”
The $940 billion bill has been widely criticized by Republican critics who believe it to be an intrusion in the healthcare sector, and that it will increase the deficit, and reduce patients’ choices.
Reuters is reporting that many states are already filing lawsuits to challenge the new insurance law, and it is likely that healthcare will continue to be a major issue in the campaign season leading to midterm Congressional elections in November.