On March 21, 2010, the U.S. House of Representatives on almost a straight party-line vote passed two final healthcare reform bills late Sunday night. Initially, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 3950, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, by a vote of 219 to 212.
Following the passage of H.R. 3950, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 4872, the Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010, by a vote of 220 to 211. This second bill by the House modifies the Senate bill (H.R. 3590), and H.R. 4872 will serve as the foundation for any changes made by Congress to the current healthcare delivery, payment and insurance system. Some of the insurance-related changes that may have immediate impact include: lifetime caps on coverage end; children can stay on parents’ policies until age 26, and insurance companies can’t cancel coverage except in the case of fraud. A significant issue of addressing the Medicare physician payment formula still remains unresolved, as well as medical liability reform.
The changes addressed in H.R. 4872, sought by House Democrats and President Obama, will be considered by the Senate under budget reconciliation rules requiring a simple majority to pass and send it to President Obama for his signature. Senate Republicans have stated their intention to offer numerous amendments and raise multiple points of order to the legislation. If the H.R. 4872 is changed in any way prior to Senate approval, it must return to the House for an additional vote before President Obama can sign it.