President Signs Final Piece of Health Care Reform

President Signs Final Piece of Health Care Reform

ALEXANDRIA, Va. - (Mealey's) On March 30, 2010 at Northern Virginia Community College, President Barack Obama signed into law H.R. 4872, the final piece of historic health care reform.

President Obama signed H.R. 4872 at a college because the amendments also change the way student loans are made, with the government becoming the primary lender instead of banks.

The changes do not affect the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act, H.R. 3590, signed March 23 by Obama.

On March 21, the House voted 219-212 to approve the Senate version of the health care bill - H.R. 3590 - which the Senate passed in December.  Shortly after passing H.R. 3590, the House voted 220-211 to pass H.R. 4872, a bill meant to reconcile differences between the bill the House passed last year and the Senate version of the bill passed Sunday.

The reconciliation bill then went to the Senate because the House and Senate must pass identical bills when reconciliation is being used.

The Senate made several changes to the bill before passing it 56-43 on March 25.  The House passed the revised bill later that evening 220-207.

The new health care legislation requires most Americans without insurance to have coverage or face a penalty.  Penalties will be $95 starting in 2014, increasing in 2016 to the greater of either a flat fee of $695 or 2.5 percent of their income.

Changes made by H.R. 4872 include providing more generous subsidies to low- and moderate-income Americans to help them buy health coverage and scaling back a "Cadillac" tax so it applies only to the portion of plans costing more than $10,200 a year for individuals and $27,500 for families.  The tax won't kick in until 2018.

Also, the reconciliation measure is expected to eventually close the coverage gap, known as the "doughnut hole," for Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in Part D drug plan and to cut government payments to Medicare Advantage to $132 billion over 10 years compared to $118 billion over 10 years in the Senate version.

[Editor's Note:  Full coverage will be in the April 7 issue of Mealey's Managed Care Liability Report.  For all of your legal news needs, please visit www.lexisnexis.com/mealeys.]

For more information, e-mail editor Cheryl Keely at cheryl.keely@lexisnexis.com.