March 23, 2010

House Passes Historic Health Care Bill, Obama Signs It Into Law

House Democrats passed their landmark health care reform on a party-line 219-212 vote late Sunday night, marking an achievement that has been compared to the enactment of Social Security and Medicare.  For a complete tally of the House vote to approve the Senate-authored health care bill, go to   Helping with the effort, some House Members changed their NO votes on the 2009 House reform bill to YES: Reps. Betsy Markey (D-CO), John Boccieri(D-OH), Scott Murphy (D-NY), Bart Gordon (D-TN) and Brian Baird (D-WA).   Two others, Reps.Michael Arcuri (D-NY) and Zack Space (D-OH), flipped from YES to NO.  The House also approved a package of reconciliation “fixes” to the Senate version of the bill, 220-211, which will be considered this week by the Senate.  For a complete tally of the vote on legislative fixes to the Senate-passed bill, go to   Reps.  Dan Lipinski (D-IL) and Stephen Lynch (D-MA) voted against the House passage of the Senate bill but for the reconciliation bill fixes. Rep.Jim Cooper (D-TN) did the opposite: he voted for the Senate bill and against reconciliation.

Alliance Executive Director Edward F. Coyle was with the President as he signed the bill into law today.  “This landmark act will help current and future retirees in several specific ways,” said Mr. Coyle.  He listed:

  • Closing the Medicare “doughnut hole” coverage gap so seniors will no longer have to cut dangerous corners on their medications;
  • Eliminating co-pays for preventive screenings to help older Americans more quickly and affordably identify and treat diseases such as cancer and diabetes;
  • Cutting wasteful spending to extend the life of the Medicare Trust Fund so seniors can better afford premiums which have doubled over the past eight years; and
  • Reducing costly health problems by assisting pre-Medicare retirees with insurance costs and banning discrimination based on pre-existing conditions.

Many provisions go into effect quickly:

  • A $250 rebate for Medicare beneficiaries who fall into the doughnut hole gap in prescription drug coverage in 2010;
  • A 50% discount on drugs in 2011 for individuals in the doughnut hole;
  • By 2011, free annual check-ups for seniors in Medicare, without having to make a co-payment for mammograms, colonoscopies and other preventive screenings;
  • A prohibition on insurers from placing lifetime limits on coverage; and
  • A prohibition on “rescission,” or dropping coverage when individuals became sick

The Friday Alert of March 29, 2010 will be providing additional details.

Alliance Plays a Key Role Throughout the Process
“Thank-you, thank you, thank you for your role in making this happen!” Alliance President Barbara J. Easterling said to fellow members of the Alliance after the House voted on Sunday.  “We logged over 6,300 calls to Congress yesterday alone.  Thank you also to the members of Congress who have shown such tremendous courage.”  The Alliance encourages its members to attend welcome-home rallies for the House members who voted for reform, and to call them on the Capitol Hill switchboard at (202) 224-3121 to voice your appreciation.

Alliance Executive Vice President Judy Cato was in attendance on Sunday for the drama at the U.S. Capitol.  She said, “I need health care reform.  My family needs health care reform.  Senior citizens need health care reform.  Disabled vets need health care reform.  I came here today to be another body to try to see this through.  It feels really good to be here today.  This moment is a long time a’coming. It’s been tolling and a long, hard road to get this done.  I think about my mother and father rallying here before, I just hope they’re looking down on us and saying ‘job well done!'”

Judy Cato, pictured with Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) and Working America’s Liz Stender & baby Lola [Photo: AFL-CIO]

Republicans to Attempt Delay, Repeal
A majority of Senators, all Democrats, have agreed to support the reconciliation measure.  Sen.John McCain of Arizona and other Republicans, however, have promised to slow the process down in the Senate through procedural objections.  In addition, an effort to repeal the law has quickly become popular among conservatives.  Please contact your senators at the same number as above, (202) 224-3121, to urge them to support the reconciliation measure.  Also, please forward this Friday Alert to any friends and neighbors whom you do not think are fully aware of the advantages to seniors of the historic health reform that the President signed into law today.

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