Health Reform Bill
On the evening of March 21, the House of Representatives passed HR 3590, the Senate’s version of comprehensive health care reform legislation, by a vote of 219-212. All 178 Republicans and 34 Democrats voted no. Importantly for ANFP members, the Senate bill (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) approved by the House does not contain the HR 1636 “Safe Food for Seniors” amendment that was in the original House health care reform bill HR 3962 (America’s Affordable health Choices Act) that passed last fall.
After passing HR 3590, the House then passed an accompanying package of revisions (HR 4872) by a vote of 220-211. Once the President signs HR 3590 into law on March 23, the Senate will take up HR 4872 as a budget “reconciliation” bill which will shield it from being filibustered (i.e., needing 60 votes for passage). Among other things, HR 4872 would revise penalties for people who don’t buy insurance, impose fines on employers of 50 or more full-time workers if the employer does not provide health insurance coverage, and strike deals in the Senate bill such as the “Cornhusker Kickback” that would have the federal government pay the costs of Medicaid coverage for newly eligible beneficiaries in Nebraska. Please note, however, that this bill also does not contain “Safe Food for Seniors” because it’s revenue-neutral and, therefore, does not qualify to be included under reconciliation rules.
Because Safe Food for Seniors is non-controversial and enjoys bipartisan support, prospects for it to be included in another bill are good. There is also the possibility that Congress will take up a health care corrections bill several months down the road to tweak the bill signed into law and that could be a vehicle for ANFP’s amendment as well. These are just a couple of the strategies that ANFP members discussed when speaking with congressional offices during ANFP’s recent Day at the Capitol, and those messages were well received!
It's important to stress that just because our bill is not part of healthcare reform, our hard work has not been in vain. Our active pursuit of safe food for seniors means that legislators on Capitol Hill are familiar with and supportive of our initiatives and will hopefully find another way to see our goals met.