The House voted 219 to 212 in favor of a comprehensive reform package, which President Obama will now sign into law. A second piece of legislation that makes fixes to the reform bill was also passed through the reconciliation process by a vote of 220 to 211, and will move to the Senate for a final vote. Zero Republicans voted for the bill.
Sunday also marked the complete removal of any federal funding to go toward abortions, which encouraged a number of pro-life Democrats to jump on board. President Obama also agreed to enact an Executive Order that eliminates any language that opens any possibility for a loophole that provides federal funding for abortions.
The vote punctuates more than a year of highly emotional debate.
What it means for you
Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. John B. Larson wrote in the Huffington Post that the bill means 10 major changes for Americans.
1) Insurance companies will no longer be allowed to deny children access to healthcare based on pre-existing conditions, such as the baby in Colorado whose insurance company said he was born too fat for health insurance.
2) Insurers can no longer drop their customers once they become sick.
3) The federal government will provide tax credits to small businesses as incentives to provide health insurance for employees.
4) Insurers must insure Americans with pre-existing conditions. These customers will fall under a “temporary high-risk pool.”
5) Drug companies must now chip in on prescription drugs for senior citizens to help close the “donut hole.” The donut hole was a gap in coverage that stopped paying for seniors’ medical costs after they exceeded $2,700; and kicked back in once their costs reached $6,154. Drug companies will now pay half of the costs while seniors are in the “donut hole.” The pharmaceutical industry agreed to the change back in June of 2009.
6) Insurers can no longer enact lifetime limits and restrictive annual limits on benefits in healthcare plans.
7) Insurers must cover their customers’ dependents up until age 26.
8) Insurers must develop new plans to cover preventive services and immunizations, such as flu vaccines, without cost-sharing.
9) Insurers must develop a reliable process for customers to appeal for new insurance plans.
10) Insurers with high administrative costs (companies that shower their upper management with enormous salaries and bonuses) must pay premium rebates to customers. They must also disclose what percentage of their overhead costs come from customers’ premiums.
Some of these changes go into affect today – all of them go into effect by 2014.