Congresswoman Maxine Waters Casts the Deciding Vote to Pass Historic Health Care Reform Bill in House of Representatives
Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-35) cast the decisive vote in favor of the Affordable Health Care for America Act (H.R. 3962), historic legislation to provide affordable quality health care for all Americans. The legislation required 218 votes to pass the House of Representatives, and Congresswoman Waters was the 218th vote for the bill late Saturday night. (Following her vote one more Democrat and one Republican also voted in favor of the legislation to make the final tally 220-215.)
"Ultimately, after thorough consideration of the legislation, I decided to cast the deciding 218th vote to pass H.R. 3962 because of the benefits it provides for my constituents," said Congresswoman Waters, "and because it will extend coverage to 36 million more Americans who currently lack health insurance, either because they were turned down or they can't afford it."
However, Congresswoman Waters was disappointed that an amendment passed denying women the opportunity to exercise their full reproductive freedoms. She fears the Stupak amendment will hurt poor women the most, as they will likely be unable to afford supplemental coverage if they need an abortion. There is no guarantee that an insurer will even provide coverage for abortion services at all, let alone at a price that is affordable.
A longtime proponent of comprehensive, affordable health care for all Americans, Congresswoman Waters and her allies in the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) insisted that health care reform legislation must include a "public option" – a voluntary, public insurance program similar to Medicare that would be an alternative to profit-driven private insurance companies.
Most CPC members prefer a single payer health care system, but when it failed to gain enough support in the House as health care reform legislation was being drafted, they expressed support for a "robust public option", which would reimburse medical providers at the Medicare rate plus 5%. While Congresswoman Waters was pleased that the House passed legislation including a public option, she was disappointed that the reimbursement rates will be negotiated between the government and providers, a plan favored by more conservative Representatives.
Congresswoman Waters however expressed support for many provisions of the legislation to make health insurance more affordable, more accessible and fairer. These provisions include significant reforms such as ending discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions like diabetes, heart disease or cancer who currently are unable to get coverage or are dropped after they get sick; reducing costs for consumers by capping out-of-pocket expenses and ending yearly or lifetime caps on what insurance companies will cover; eliminating co-pays for routine checkups and preventive care; and assisting small businesses so they can cover employees.
Many important reforms will take effect immediately after the bill is signed into law.
Among them are preventing insurance companies from dropping coverage for individuals when they get sick, helping seniors pay for medicine by reducing the prescription drug coverage gap (known as "the donut hole") under Medicare Part D coverage by $500, helping young adults get coverage by extending their ability to stay on their parents' insurance plans up to their 27th birthday, and increasing funding for community health centers so they will be able to serve twice as many patients over the next 5 years.
Congresswoman Waters also worked hard to make sure that legal immigrants are treated fairly under this legislation.
Congresswoman Waters noted that efforts to provide health insurance coverage to all Americans was proposed in 1912 – almost 100 years ago – by Teddy Roosevelt, and Presidents following him have also supported this objective. Congressman John Dingell of Michigan has introduced the National Health Insurance Act (H.R. 15), which would provide universal health care for all Americans, during each of his terms in Congress going back to 1957. It was previously sponsored by his father when he was a Congressman.
"Providing health insurance coverage to all Americans is not a new idea but one that has taken a long time to achieve, largely because of opposition from the powerful insurers. Greedy insurance companies have shown a lack of concern for their customers by increasing premiums, co-pays and deductibles year after year, turning away people with pre-existing conditions and dropping people who have paid premiums for years if they get sick and require costly treatment. By passing H.R. 3962, the House has moved our nation one step closer to quality, affordable health care for all," Congresswoman Waters said.
(Please see the information below describing how the Affordable Health Care for America Act will benefit Congresswoman Waters' district.)
The House Energy and Commerce Committee has projected that H.R. 3962 will have the following impact on the 35th District:
--improve employer-based coverage for 281,000 residents;
--provide credits to help pay for coverage for up to 157,000 households;
--provide coverage for 131,000 uninsured residents;
--improve Medicare for 62,000 beneficiaries, including closing the prescription drug donut hole for 5,500 seniors;
--allow 16,300 small businesses to obtain affordable health care coverage and provide tax credits to help reduce health insurance costs for up to 15,100 small businesses;--protect up to 1,100 families from bankruptcy due to unaffordable health care costs;
--and reduce the cost of uncompensated care for hospitals and health care providers by $27 million.