Gov. Butch Otter’s push to establish a state-run online health insurance marketplace under the U.S. Affordable Care Act was subject to the longest legislative debate of any measure in memory, 9 3/4 hours in the Senate and 7 hours in the House.
The talking ended Thursday, with a 23-12 Senate vote on House Bill 248. On Friday, HB 248 was returned to the House for enrolling.
Otter should get the bill next week. It will be fascinating to see how he manages the signing ceremony for the biggest legislative accomplishment of his 6-plus years as governor. A cadre of supporters from business, particularly the insurance and health care sectors, would ordinarily be entitled to a big show, with TV cameras, live tweets, souvenir pens and short speeches from key lawmakers and allies.
But HB 248 remains deeply unpopular with some loyal GOP primary voters. Many lawmakers who debated against the health exchange said it was the most important vote of their careers. Some likened their opposition to historic injustices including taxation without representation, slavery, segregation and the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.
Otter says he’ll be running for a third term next year at age 72, where he could face a challenge from the right in the May 2014 primary, perhaps from an outspoken foe of Obamacare, 1st District Congressman Raul Labrador. Otter’s finessing of the signing of HB 248 promises to be great political theater.
Democratic President Barack Obama’s legislative legacy is topped by passage of the Affordable Care Act, which he signed three years ago today. Obama, his party united behind him after re-election, celebrated the anniversary. Republican House Speaker John Boehner also marked the day in a statement decrying the law.
The White House statement:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 23, 2013
Statement by the President on the Anniversary of the Affordable Care Act
Three years ago today, I signed into law the principle that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one should go broke just because they get sick. The Affordable Care Act will give hard-working, middle class families the health care security they deserve and protect every American from the worst insurance company abuses. Already, millions of seniors are saving $600 a year on their prescription drugs. Millions of young people have been able to stay on their family’s health plan until age 26. Preventive care, like mammograms for women and wellness visits for seniors, is covered free of charge. Most importantly, for the sake of our fiscal future, the growth of health care costs is beginning to slow. In fact, last year, Medicaid costs fell for the first time in decades.
Because of the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies will no longer have unchecked power to cancel your policy, deny you coverage, or charge women more than men. And soon, no American will ever again be denied care or charged more due to a pre-existing condition, like cancer or even asthma.
Later this year, millions of Americans will finally have the opportunity to buy the same kind of health care Members of Congress give themselves. Beginning in October, you’ll be able to sign up for new private health care plans through a new health insurance marketplace where private plans will compete to save middle class families money. Through these marketplaces, Americans and small business owners will be able to choose from a menu of health plans that fit their budget and provide quality coverage they can count on when they need it most. If you like the plan you have, you can keep it. If you cannot afford a plan, you or your small business may get financial assistance to make it affordable.
There’s more work to do to implement this law, and I look forward to working with leaders of both parties to help Americans save money on health care and extend the security of coverage to every family.
Speaker Boehner’s statement:
|Speaker Boehner Statement on the Third Anniversary of ObamaCare|
|WASHINGTON, DC - House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) today issued the following statement on ObamaCare’s three-year anniversary:
“When Democrats rammed ObamaCare through Congress three years ago, they did so with a host of promises that are proving more empty by the day. Instead of keeping the coverage they have, an estimated seven million Americans are at risk of losing their health insurance, including millions of low-income and minority seniors enrolled in Medicare Advantage. Far from ‘bending the cost curve,’ ObamaCare’s projected price tag has nearly doubled. Health insurance premiums have spiked, and are expected to climb even further when the law takes full effect next year. The millions of jobs Democrats promised are nowhere to be found, and businesses large and small are already pointing to the impact of ObamaCare as the reason for ‘planned layoffs and a reluctance to hire more staff.’ The law imposes a trillion dollars worth of tax hikes, including a medical device tax that will ship thousands of jobs overseas. The longer this law stays in place, the more costly it becomes for American families and small businesses who cannot afford another year of broken promises.
“This week, the House passed Republicans’ balanced budget that fully repeals and defunds ObamaCare to protect families, workers and seniors from its devastating consequences. The House will continue working to scrap the law in its entirety, and will use oversight authority to expose its harmful impacts as they continue to unfold. After three years, it’s clear the American people were sold a 3,000 page bill of goods with ObamaCare, and we remain committed to fully repealing and replacing it with better solutions that lower health care costs and increase access to quality care.”