History in the House!

Earlier tonight, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R.3962, a historic comprehensive health reform proposal, by a vote of 220-215.

We thank ALL of California’s Democratic Congressional Representatives for voting for this desperately needed comprehensive health reform. Given California’s health crisis, it’s appropriate that the House of Representatives, led by Californians like Speaker Pelosi, Chairmen Miller, Waxman, and Stark, and many others, took the lead in crafting this historic bill.

The bill would provide stability and security for those who have coverage, and that would extend affordable coverage to those who don’t. Californians are concerned that coverage won’t be there for them when they need it, and this bill provides our families with much needed security from financial ruin.

Californians have a particular interest in this vote. California has more uninsured, a higher cost-of-living, more denials of coverage for pre-existing conditions, and fewer workers offered on-the-job coverage.The House bill would help people keep their on-the-job coverage and expand our safety net. It would provide consumer protections against insurance company abuses, and provide the choice of a public health insurance option.

This is the equivalent of passing Social Security or the minimum wage in the 1930s, or the passage of Medicare or civil rights legislation in the 1960s.

This is not the end of the process, but it moves the process forward. The Senate should take quick action the conference committee to meld the two bills can start its work can begin as soon as possible.

We will look to conference committee to change the one unfortunate development from today’s debate, which was the adoption of the Stupak anti-abortion amendment. The main bill had already prohibited federal funds to be used for abortion. The amendment provides for an unwarranted extension that would place anti-abortion restrictions on private plans offered in the new health insurance exchange. While over 190 Democrats voted against the amendment, it’s unfortunate that over 60 Democrats–including California Representatives Joe Baca, Dennis Cardoza, and Jim Costa–joined all Republicans in voting for this amendment. This issue needs to be fixed in conference.

Aside from the abortion issue, the House bill is a very good bill–and superior to the Senate versions, especially on key issues like affordability, employer responsibility, the public health insurance option, inclusivity, the bargaining power of the exchange, limits on out-of-pocket costs, financing, and several other issues.

So there’s a lot of work to do, but let’s remember the importance of this vote. It moves the process forward. And this process has now moved farther than any other previous effort in over 100 years of effort, with an entire body of Congress endorsing a proposal. Let’s keep the focus on passing reform, while working to make the reform better.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.

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