House passes health care legislation

Opposition to the bill claims it as government takeover of health care.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Affordable Health Care for America Act on Saturday by a vote of 220-215. The bill now moves on to the Senate, where it is expected to meet stiff resistance. Maneater File Photo

Health care insurance reform passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a narrow margin Saturday, but a group who supported the act used Monday to protest the no votes of two Missouri congressmen at their district offices.

The House passed H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act, by a vote of 220-215. One Republican voted in favor of the bill and some conservative Democrats broke with their party to vote against it.

Grass Roots Organizing, a Mexico, Mo.-based non-profit organization, sent members to the Jefferson City district office of Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., and the Columbia district office of Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., in specially decorated Cadillac sedans.

The group said it chose those cars because it believes Congress should extend to all Americans the health insurance plan given to Congress members and their families, which is often referred to as the "Cadillac of insurance plans."

House Republicans, including Luetkemeyer, have called Democratic health care reform proposals attempts at a "government takeover of health care" in the months leading up to Saturday's vote.

GRO spokeswoman Lily Tinker Fortel said Monday's news conference was aimed at dispelling that notion and perhaps persuading the congressmen to change their votes when the House and Senate bills are reconciled.

"We believe that people always have a chance to correct misinformation and the bills in the House and Senate are not a 'government takeover of health care,' " Fortel said. "Our representatives have a duty to vote for what is in the best interests of all Missourians and H.R. 3962 moves us in the right direction."

Six of Missouri's nine congressional representatives voted against the House bill. The three Democrats who voted for it were Reps. Emanuel Cleaver II, Lacy Clay and Russ Carnahan, who represent Kansas City, St. Louis and St. Louis' southern suburbs, respectively.

Fortel said GRO Director Robin Acree thanked Missouri representatives who did vote in favor of the House bill and spoke about benefits Skelton and Luetkemeyer enjoy as part of their congressional insurance plans.

During the news conference she said she also read statistics from the House Committee on Energy and Commerce showing how the H.R. 3962 would benefit Skelton and Luetkemeyer's districts if signed into law.

Spokesman Paul Sloca characterized the GRO protest as brief and said Luetkemeyer believes the House bill amounts to a government takeover of health care. He said Luetkemeyer would never vote for such a takeover.

"He's aware that some people support the bill," Sloca said. "But an overwhelming majority do not, based on the phone calls and e-mails we've gotten."

Carnahan, who represents part of St. Louis, voted in favor of the House bill Saturday and Carnahan spokesman Jim Hubbard said Monday that Carnahan has been supportive of health care reform since Congress began debating the issue.

In August, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., hosted a town hall meeting to answer questions on health care reform legislation in Hillsboro, which is in Carnahan's district. She faced many skeptical questions about such legislation. But Hubbard said in spite of such objections, Carnahan felt now was the time to pass the reform legislation.

"Momentum is still on the side of the consumer in terms of lowering costs and increasing preventative care," Hubbard said. "Certainly some people are vested in this debate, but a good majority are supportive of the bill."

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