[JURIST] The US House of Representatives [official website] late Saturday passed [press release] landmark legislation [HR 3962 materials] designed to reform the US health care system. The bill, entitled the Affordable Health Care for America Act, passed by a narrow vote of 220-215 [roll call], with only one Republican, Congressman Anh Joseph Cao (R-LA) [official website], voting with the majority. The legislation has an estimated cost of around $1 trillon [WSJ report] over ten years and would provide insurance [AP report] to 36 million more people, extending coverage to nearly 96 percent of Americans. It also expands eligibility for Medicaid [official website], includes subsidies for middle-class citizens whose employers do not provide access to affordable coverage, and provides measures prohibiting health care providers from refusing coverage due to pre-existing conditions. The House bill includes the so-called "public option," a government-provided insurance alternative to private insurance when that is unavailable. Also on Saturday, in a last-minute compromise prior to voting on the entire reform bill, the House approved an amendment [materials] strictly limiting the use of public funds to cover abortion procedures by a vote of 240-194 [roll call].
The final health care package is a combination of similar bills passed by House committees over the summer. Other legislation is moving through the Senate. Health care reform [JURIST news archive] has been a top priority of the Obama administration over the past several months. Some have complained that without a public option for low-income individuals, reform would 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 [advocacy website], though that number is disputed.