House Democrats voted 220-215 to approve a historic healthcare reform bill that aims to cover 96% of all Americans through various insurance market and coverage reforms.
The sweeping legislation would establish a new health insurance exchange that would include a public option and provide other benefits such as ending discrimination for people with pre-existing conditions. It would also take steps to close Medicare's coverage gap or "doughnut hole" and enable young adults to get coverage through their parents' insurance.
Steep cuts to Medicare, along with a surtax on wealthy individuals, are expected to foot much of the bill's cost, which according to some estimates exceeds $1 trillion over 10 years.
President Barack Obama insists the bill will be fully paid for and reduce the long-term federal deficit.
The legislation “will provide stability and security for Americans who have insurance; quality, affordable options for those who don't; and lower costs for American families and American businesses,” Obama said before the vote.
An amendment to further tighten restrictions on federal funding of abortion through the bill's health insurance exchange was approved despite opposition from abortion-rights lawmakers, who said they would fight for further changes when the House and Senate conference on the bill.
GOP members continued to trounce the bill in news conferences and during floor debate leading up to the vote, claiming it was a $1 trillion government takeover of healthcare that would cost jobs and penalize small businesses. A GOP alternative to the bill that would cover just 3 million more people was defeated 176-258.