House Passes Health Reform Legislation Saturday

The House passed health care overhaul legislation on Saturday night by a vote of 220 – 215, with 39 Democrats opposing the bill and one Republican voting in favor. Twenty-two of the 39 were members of the Blue Dog Coalition, the group known for being relatively fiscally responsible. The Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation have scored the bill; those can be seen here and here, respectively. The House measure:

  • Will provide coverage to an estimated 36 million currently uninsured
  • Creates a new public insurance plan by 2013
  • Includes both an individual and an employer mandate
  • Creates a new exchange for customers to purchase insurance
  • Provides subsidies for low-income Americans - Calls for hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts to Medicare
  • Levies a surtax on wealthy individuals to pay for expanding coverage (5.4% tax on individuals earning more than $500,000 a year and couples earning more than $1 million a year)

The Congressional Budget Office is currently in the process of grading the latest version of the Senate bill. When it does so, we will update our comparison charts with both House and Senate numbers.

The release of this score, as well as sensitivity around abortion issues (a restriction on abortion coverage was added late on Saturday to the House health care bill), could prove to be difficult for Majority Leader Reid as he searches for a way to get enough votes to both bring debate on a bill to floor, and then pass a final version. Besides finding a compromise on abortion, Reid will be wrestling with the issues of whether to include a mandate as well as a public option. Currently, Congress has just over a month to line up 60 votes for the Senate health care overhaul plan, work out differences between the House and Senate plans, and have a bill ready for President Obama to sign by the end of the year. The major differences between the House and Senate versions include:

  • A public option that allows states to opt out was passed by the House; no public option (yet) in the Senate
  • The House funds its legislation largely with a surtax on couples who earn more than $1 million a year; the Senate does so with taxes on high-value insurance plans
  • The House includes a strong mandate; the Senate version includes a very weak one
  • The House spends over $200 billion more than the Senate in a 10-year period to expand the cost of coverage
  • The House bill will decrease the number of uninsured by a likely 36 million over ten years; the Senate bill will decrease the uninsured by a projected 29 million
  • Floor debate on the bill took one day in the House but is expected to last weeks in the Senate