President Barack Obama signed the controversial $938 billion health care bill into law today, with opponents and advocates still arguing over what the legislation will or will not accomplish. The ceremonial signing follows a 219-212 vote earlier this week in the U.S. House of Representatives, where last-minute deals with moderate Democrats were enough to secure the 216 votes needed to pass the measure.
While the president signed the Senate’s version of the health care bill into law today, there remains a package of “fix-it” amendments addressing elements of the Senate bill that House members wanted changed, which will now be voted on in the Senate under “reconciliation” rules that require only a simple majority.
Among the changes that are expected to be voted on in the follow-up package, is a scaled-back excise tax for so-called “lavish” health insurance policies costing more than $10,200 for individuals and $27,500 for families. The reconciliation measure would also push back implementation of the excise tax from 2013 to 2018.
The IAM and labor unions vigorously opposed the excise tax as an attack on benefits that were negotiated in lieu of wages and a betrayal of promises made during the presidential campaign.
“The passage of this bill is indeed a historic occasion, but the new law contains inherent flaws,” said IAM President Tom Buffenbarger. “While it curbs some of the worst abuses of the insurance industry, it does not go far enough. The lack of a robust public option to compete with private insurers, the absence of a national exchange and the continued presence of an excise tax are all offensive to those who worked so hard to achieve significant health care reform in this country.”