November 6, 2009

Obama’s Healthcare Bill Makes Progress In The House

House Democrats are working to soothe last-minute concerns in order to secure enough support to pass President Barack Obama's historic health overhaul initiative, The Associated Press reported.

The effort to reach Obama's goals of extending health coverage to tens of millions of uninsured Americans and putting tough new restrictions on insurance companies will be voted on Saturday.

Obama was set to make a personal appeal over his 10-year, $1.2 trillion legislation to the Democratic rank and file in a visit Friday to Capitol Hill. But that was postponed until Saturday because of the shootings at Fort Hood, Texas.

Senators have been waiting for the Congressional Budget Office to weigh in on a bill written by Majority Leader Harry Reid in consultation with the White House and key committee chairmen, slowing action on health legislation.

Some Senate votes could slip until next year, but in the House Democratic leaders pressed forward.

However, many Dems are confident they will have the majority needed to prevail in the 435-seat House. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday they would, indeed, have enough votes.

Pelosi was working with Democratic leaders on finalizing language to bar federal funding of abortion and clear up concerns over the treatment of illegal immigrants in the legislation that sparked protest from some Hispanic lawmakers.

Voices of concern from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus sought changes to a provision in the Senate legislation -- backed by the White House -- that bars illegal immigrants from buying health insurance within a proposed new marketplace, or exchange, even if they bought it from private companies with their own money.

Some lawmakers say the White House position goes too far, given that illegal immigrants can buy private health insurance now.

But since the House bill doesn't have that language, several members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus met with the President at the White House on Thursday to tell him that if that changed, he could lose as many as 20 votes.

Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., head of the Hispanic Caucus, said afterward she believed Obama got the message.

In keeping with the Hispanic Caucus' demands, there was not likely to be any prohibition added to the House bill against illegal immigrants shopping in the exchange, House leaders said.

To satisfy anti-abortion Democrats, House Democrats were trying to toughen prohibitions in the bill against federal funding for abortions. A resolution appeared within reach late Thursday when the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops became involved in the talks.

Meanwhile, the powerful seniors' lobby AARP and the American Medical Association threw their support behind the House effort on Thursday, giving them two much-needed endorsements.

Some 96 percent of Americans would be covered under the bill, providing government subsidies beginning in 2013 to extend coverage to millions who don't have it.

Self-employed people and small businesses could buy coverage through the new exchanges, either from a private insurer or a new government plan that would compete.

All the plans sold through the exchange would have to follow basic consumer protection rules.

Almost all individuals would be required to purchase insurance or pay a fine, and employers would be required to insure their employees.

The new rules would block insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions or charging much higher rates to older citizens.