For the first time in America's history, all Americans will have access to quality, affordable health care under a final package of health insurance reforms passed by the U.S. House of Representatives today. The legislation will protect Americans from the worst insurance industry practices, offer the uninsured and small businesses the opportunity to obtain affordable health care plans, cover 32 million uninsured Americans all while reducing the deficit by $143 billion over the next decade and more than a trillion dollars over 20 years. The House approved the measure by a vote of 220 to 211.
The health insurance reform package combines the best ideas from all sides of the debate, capping a year-long transparent legislative effort. It delivers on President Obama's key goals for health reform of slowing the growth of health costs, creating competition in the health insurance marketplace, and keeping insurers honest. It will protect people's choices of doctors and health plans, and guarantee that every American can access quality, stable, and affordable health insurance coverage. It will rein-in the worst insurance company abuses, such as discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, policy rescissions when patients are in the middle of treatment, or insurance rate hikes without justification. Many of these protections kick in immediately; see a complete list here.
"We come to this floor for thousands of votes each year, but no single vote comes with so many personal stories," said Sander M. Levin (D-MI), the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. "Within our families and our districts, people have spoken out about the need for real health insurance reform that gives every American access to quality, affordable care. Republicans have turned their backs on the problem, claiming our nation would somehow be better off without reform -- this is not the case. Today, in the tradition of America, we will pass health care reform and we will make our beloved country a still better nation."
"History has been made today. We promised health reform and we have delivered it," said U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-CA), the chair of the House Education and Labor Committee. "Approval of this legislation marks a major moment in America's march toward greater equality and opportunity -- a journey that has been interrupted and delayed far too many times in my lifetime. This bill will create millions of jobs, reduce the federal budget deficit, and finally hold accountable the insurance companies that have caused so much panic and pain in the lives of hard-working Americans."
"Today is a historic day. Over a century in the making, Congress has at last passed comprehensive legislation to provide access to quality, affordable health care for all Americans. It will make a profound difference for our children, our families, and for generations to come," said U.S. Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-CA), the chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. "This will prove to be an enduring change for the better for our society and quality of life. Health security is a fundamental right for every American and we will remain faithful to the commitments we have made today."
"After generations of debate, we have successfully addressed one of the greatest moral and economic problems of the day. What we have done tonight will protect health care, as well as jobs and our entire economy for generations of Americans," said U.S. Rep. John D. Dingell (D-MI), the chair emeritus of the Energy and Commerce Committee and lead sponsor of H.R. 3962. "Thirty-two million Americans will get coverage that don't have it. Millions more in danger of losing their coverage can sleep easier tonight knowing their coverage will be there. Almost all Americans can look forward to seeing their premiums go down. The youngest Americans, and the children born in the years to come, will not have to live with the fear that so many Americans have had to live within the past. I am proud of the courage displayed by our colleagues today. This is a great day for all of us, and I believe that someday all Americans will share that view."
"Forty-five years ago, President Johnson signed Medicare into law and guaranteed health care to every American 65 and over. Today we have extended that guarantee to all Americans," said U.S. Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA), the chair of the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee.
"Today's historic victory will transform our flawed health care system into something that works for Americans of all walks of life," said U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ), the chair of the Education and Labor Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions. "By providing families and businesses with more choices and increased competition, the insurance industry will finally be held accountable to continue providing top-quality care while keeping premiums down. Most importantly, this bill puts a plan into place that decreases our deficit while ensuring coverage for 94 percent of all Americans so that millions will no longer feel powerless when in need of care."
"The history of failed attempts at health care reform reaches back decades. But more important than the historical achievement is what the reformed system will do for everyday Americans," said U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) the chair of Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health. "We aren't just making history, we are making a better health care system."