U.S. lawmakers will consider new health care insurance benefits and the cost of paying for them on Wednesday, as the House heads to a vote on whether to repeal last year's major health care overhaul law.
The House is set to finish debate on the repeal bill this afternoon, with a vote expected to follow shortly thereafter, according to the office of the House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-VA.
The House Republican majority - many of whom campaigned on the law's repeal -- is expected to pass the bill. However, the Democratic majority in the Senate is expected to vote against it.
The law passed last year would help expand insurance coverage to up to 30 million more people through requirements that each person buy health insurance by 2014. People who can't afford to would be subsidized by the government.
The law contains expensive mandates and penalties that create major barriers to job growth, more than 200 economists and experts said yesterday in a letter addressed to House and Senate leaders in support of a repeal. As a result of the law, they said the federal budget deficit could rise between $500 billion or $1.5 trillion in the coming decade.
The mandates will compete for the scarce business resources used for hiring and firm expansion, a letter addressed to House and Senate leaders of both parties said. The letter was being promoted by the American Action Forum, a conservative think tank.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-CA has pointed to other figures by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which has said repealing the law would add $230 billion to the deficit over the next decade.
President Barack Obama - a key supporter of last year's law - said in a statement on Thursday that Americans deserve the freedom and security of knowing that insurance companies can't deny, cap, or drop their coverage when they needed it most.
Obama's Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, said that part of the law protects people living with pre-existing conditions, with her department's analysis finding that anywhere between 19 percent and 50 percent of the U.S. population has pre-existing conditions.
Because of the health law those people are being freed from discrimination in order to get the health coverage they need, she said.
A controversy related to Tuesday's vote involves a rule applied to the bill. The Republican leadership invoked a closed rule which prevents any changes to it. While Democrats often used the rule in the previous Congressional session, they have criticized Republicans who promised a more inclusive legislative process in the new session.
The repeal law, H.R. 2, is called Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Act.