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Health Care Reform Bill Passes US House of Representatives

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) On November 7 the House of Representatives passed the Affordable Health Care for America Act, landmark health reform legislation that will ensure every American has access to quality, affordable, stable and secure health care coverage. The bill passed by a vote of 220 to 215.

The legislation, which cracks down on some of the insurance industry's worst practices, would extend coverage to 36 million Americans and cut the deficit by $104 billion over ten years. Groups representing doctors and farmers, seniors, consumers, and cancer patients have endorsed the bill.

Said Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine, "This day has been a long time coming. Teddy Roosevelt first called for health reform nearly 100 years ago, but -- in the face of furious lobbying by the insurance industry and nearly unanimous opposition from Republicans -- House Democrats accomplished something no other Congress has been able to do: pass comprehensive health reform legislation.

"The Affordable Health Care for America Act will provide more security and stability to people who already have insurance by enacting much needed reforms to the insurance industry. No longer will an insurance company be able to deny someone coverage because of a pre-existing condition, or cancel someone's coverage when they get sick. The Act will provide more quality, affordable choices for the millions of Americans who are uninsured. And the bill will bring down the high costs of care, for American families and businesses, while lowering our deficit.”

Said Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, "I thank the President for his tremendous leadership because without President Obama in the White House, this victory would not have been possible. He provided the vision and the momentum for us to get the job done for the American people. And for that we are very, very proud -- proud of our success, proud of the Members of Congress who took a very, very intense interest in the legislation -- they know what we have accomplished for the American people.

The Affordable Health Care for America Act will also improve access to Medicaid and reduce Medicare Part D costs for people living with HIV/AIDS.

"Effective drug treatments have improved both health and quality of life for thousands of Americans living with HIV/AIDS,” said Pelosi. “However, many uninsured, low-income HIV-positive individuals still do not have access to these life-saving medications because they generally do not meet Medicaid requirements until becoming disabled by full-blown AIDS.

"Forcing people with HIV to wait for health care until their immune system is compromised by AIDS is bad health policy. The House health insurance reform bill dramatically increases access to Medicaid for all low-income Americans, including people living with HIV, by covering everyone up to 150 percent of the federal poverty level. For more than a decade, I have worked to expand access to Medicaid for people living with HIV through the Early Treatment for HIV Act. With Saturday's passage of the Affordable Health Care for America Act, the House has moved a step closer to not just achieving this goal, but exceeding it."

In addition to the Medicaid expansion program, the Affordable Health Care for America Act also recognizes same sex unions and makes health care more affordable for LGBT families.

House Representatives Jim McDermott (D-WA) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) introduced the Tax Equity for Health Plan Beneficiaries Act earlier this May. This bill alters the tax status of health benefits granted to the spouses of gay and lesbian employees in such a way they’re no longer considered taxable income for the employee.

This legislation has gained the full support of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). Said HRC President Joe Solmonese, “I meet people all the time who are gratified they work for companies that offer domestic partner benefits. But they pass on the benefits because they cannot afford the taxes that go with them.”

McDermott told the New York Times the bill would “correct a longstanding injustice, end a blatant inequity in the tax code and help make health care coverage more affordable for more Americans.”

Yet Saturday’s victory may be bittersweet in that passage by the House doesn’t guarantee the legislation will make it to the President’s desk.

Said Kaine, “This vote doesn't mark the end of this process -- we still have a ways to go -- but it is a critical milestone on the road to passing health insurance reform. The American people want reform -- they need reform -- and Democrats will not rest until we pass comprehensive health reform legislation."

“Now it falls on the United States Senate to take the baton and bring this effort to the finish line on behalf of the American people,” said President Barack Obama in a November 7 statement. “I'm absolutely confident that they will. I'm equally convinced that on the day that we gather here at the White House and I sign comprehensive health insurance reform legislation into law, they'll be able to join their House colleagues and say that this was their finest moment in public service -- the moment we delivered change we promised to the American people and did something to leave this country stronger than we found it.”