Sunday 24th of January 2021

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House, Senate Close to Health Insurance Deal

The Senate’s Thursday vote for sweeping health insurance reform was a major victory for Congressional Democrats. Democratic senators were visibly pleased at the passage of the health care reform bill as well as the prospect of getting home in time for Christmas. However, the bill, which would mandate medical coverage for about 30 million Americans, faces many challenges before legislators can wrap up the process.

Several important differences distinguish the Senate version from the House version that passed in November with one Republican’s support. The Senate bill, which passed with a 60-39 vote on Christmas Eve, received no Republican support. Democrats in the House and Senate have essentially shut Republicans out of the negotiations that must now take place in order to iron out distinctly different philosophies on the kind of coverage that the government should require to be provided.

President Obama has encouraged Congress to move swiftly. “Having passed reform bills in both the House and the Senate, we now have to take up the last and most important step and reach an agreement on a final reform bill that I can sign into law,” President Obama said in a speech after the vote.

“With today’s vote, we are now incredibly close to making health insurance reform a reality in this country, our challenge then is to finish the job,” he added. As lawmakers and their staff members streamed out of Capitol building after the vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi offered her congratulations to Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, for guiding the massive bill through the Senate.

“I commend Senator Reid for his strong leadership in passing this bill, which takes a critical step on behalf of the health and security of all Americans,” Speaker Pelosi commented. The three chairmen who ushered the bill through the House, Representatives Henry Waxman, Charles Rangel, and George Miller, offered a joint statement acknowledging the large areas of agreement between the bills.

“Both bills will make unprecedented reforms to the insurance industry to hold insurers accountable and protect consumers from delays or denials of care based on pre-existing conditions, from rescissions, and from exorbitant out-of-pocket expenses that bankrupt far too many Americans. Both bills will protect and expand peoples’ choices of doctors and health plans. And both bills will offer relief to small businesses getting crushed by spiraling health costs,” the chairmen said.

Among the differences that Congress will now have to hammer out are the bill’s inclusion of a public option and Medicare cuts, its stance on government-funded abortions, and the number of uninsured Americans to whom it offers coverage. “It’s not going to be easy,” Representative John Dingell, D-Mich., who visited Capitol Hill to witness the vote, said about the imminent negotiations. “Everyone will have to give a little.”