New House health care bill unveiled

New House health care bill unveiled House speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) unveiled the House health care reform bill at an event on Capitol Hill on Thursday morning. The $894 billion health care package, a combination of similar bills passed by House committees over the summer, would provide insurance to 36 million more people, extending coverage to nearly 96 percent of Americans. The bill, entitled the Affordable Health Care for America Act, would expand eligibility for Medicaid, the federal-state insurance program for low-income Americans, and includes subsidies for middle-class citizens whose employers do not provide access to affordable coverage.

The bill also includes a so-called "public option," a requirement for employers to offer insurance to their employees and a prohibition on refusing coverage due to pre-existing conditions. Speaking on the steps of the US Capitol, Pelosi praised the bill saying:

Today we are about to deliver on the promise of making affordable, quality health care available for all Americans. ... We are putting forth a bill that reflects our best values and addresses our greatest challenges.

House Democrats hope the bill will be up for a vote by next week, with a final vote before November 11, which would allow Obama to sign the bill by year's end. The Senate is also putting together its own version of the bill, and the two versions would have to be reconciled before being signed into law.

Last week, The US Senate Finance Committee voted 14-9 to approve a health care reform bill entitled The America's Healthy Future Act. Health care reform has been a top priority of the Obama administration over the past several months. Some have complained that the lack of a public option for low-income individuals does not go far enough to fix the nation's health care system. Conservatives have argued that proposed additional taxes on expensive insurance policies already in place would make reform too costly. Approximately 47 million Americans are uninsured, according to the National Coalition on Health Care, though that number is disputed.

(Published by Jurist - October 29, 2009)

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