By Pamela Gentry, Senior Political Analyst
November 8, 2009 – Lawmakers expressed jubilant gratification along with tempered celebration with the passage of H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act. The president was quick to congratulate Congress understanding this bill will be one of the defining policies of his presidency.
Black lawmakers in the House were united early on a reform bill with a public option; so while they are pleased with the passages of H.R. 3962, they are cautiously optimistic of what the final bill will have after it is merged with the Senate version.
“The Affordable Health Care for America Act is a piece of legislation that will provide stability and security for Americans who have insurance; quality affordable options for those who don’t; and bring down the cost of health care for families, businesses, and the government while strengthening the financial health of Medicare. And it is legislation that is fully paid for and will reduce our long-term federal deficit.”
Rep. Barbara Lee, (D-Calif.) Chairwomen, Congressional Black Caucus
“While there is still much work to do, I applaud President Obama, Democratic Leadership and the Chairmen of the Tri-Committees for their efforts to bring us to this point.
“I also want to thank in the Tri-Caucus, Progressives Caucus and particularly the 42 members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Together we have led the fight for a strong public option, which is included in the health care bill that the House approved today.
“When others were pronouncing health reform dying—and the public option dead and buried—we kept on fighting! And we will keep fighting until a final health care bill is on the president’s desk that includes not only a strong public option, but provisions to achieve health equity, eliminate health disparities and to limit the rate of increase for those with private plans.”
Rep. John Conyers (D- Mich)
“While the bill is far from perfect, I supported it because it will expand access to health insurance to 96 percent of Americans, end discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, help our seniors by closing the prescription drug benefit donut hole, and increase competition and choice with a public insurance option.
I voted for this bill because the cost of inaction is too high. Each year, 44,000 people die because they do not have access to insurance. Without reform, this number would rise, Americans would be at greater risk of losing their coverage, and our business community would continue to fall behind international competitors as their future profits are drained by burdensome health care costs.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.)
“Legislation created by the bill will improve employer-based coverage for 403,000 Marylanders, will cover 44,00 0 Maryland residents who lack insurance and will provide 147,000 Maryland families with “affordability credits” to help them afford insurance.
It also improves Medicare for 90,000 beneficiaries in Maryland, including beginning closure of the prescription drug “doughnut hole” for 4,700 Maryland seniors.
On the financial front, this legislation will protect 900 Maryland families from joining the estimated one million nationally who declare bankruptcy due to medical costs.”
Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.)
“This may be one of the most important moments in our history,” said Rep. John Lewis. “It has been a long tough struggle, but we took significant steps this evening toward making a powerful difference in the lives of every American. This is not a perfect bill, but it is the beginning we must make to transform health care in America and make sure that healthcare is a right and not a privilege.”
Del. Elanor Norton (D-D.C.)
“The incredible diversity of the Democratic Caucus, representing Republican, right-leaning, moderate, and progressive areas, meant that we could go to the floor only with a bill that sensitively put all of America together into one convincing bill. That is why we have produced a bill that satisfies deficit hawks, who are more wary of increasing deficits than of any other issue, as well as single-payer advocates, who believe that only Medicare for all can markedly reduce costs while providing adequate health care to the middle class and the uninsured. Thus, there can be no doubt that the Affordable Health Care for America Act is a balanced bill.”
Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.)
“This bill is not only morally right, but an imperative for working-class families” said Johnson. “When this bill becomes law, 166,000 households in my district could qualify for affordability credits if they need to purchase their own coverage, 65,000 seniors will benefit from a strengthened Medicare, 15,000 small businesses will be able to join the health insurance exchange and thousands of families could avoid bankruptcy due to catastrophic health care costs.”