By: Emily Beaver
After months of debate, argument, and just plain bickering about health care, the House passed a health care reform bill by a vote of 219-212. Only Democrats supported the bill, which will extend health insurance to millions of people and will provide new protections for people who already have insurance. The vote was historic -- if it becomes a law, it would require almost all Americans to have insurance for the first time. The vote was also exciting -- one of those rare times when watching Congress work felt more like witnessing history than watching sausage being made.
"This isn't radical reform, but it is major reform," Obama said at a press conference after the vote. "This is what change looks like."
What the House passed on Sunday was just one piece of health care reform bill, called the reconciliation bill. Next, Obama will sign the health care reform bill the Senate passed in December. On Tuesday, the Senate will have to pass the reconciliation bill before health care reform becomes law.
For young adults, the age group most likely to be uninsured, health reform will bring big changes -- with some changes happening as soon as this year. Later this year, health care reform would begin to allow young adults to stay on their parents' insurance plans until age 26. By 2014, more young people without children will be able to qualify for Medicaid, the government health insurance program for poor and low-income people. Young adults who don't get health insurance at work will be able to buy insurance through a health insurance exchange, even if they have pre-existing health conditions like asthma or diabetes.
Even for young people, who have a lot to gain from reform, there will be a cost. For the first time, everyone will have to get insurance -- so the "young invincibles" who don't buy insurance because they're young and healthy won't be able to skip out on insurance any more - or they'll be fined.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has been a major player in passing health reform, said in a speech before the vote that health reform will "unleash an entrepreneurial spirit" in America. Now, people who want to leave their jobs will be able to keep their health insurance, and people who want to start their own businesses will be able to get insurance she said.
For young adults, who are less likely to get insurance through work, being able to change jobs or create their own job without worrying about health insurance is important. But having access to health insurance might mean something more -- it might mean pursuing the dream of becoming a musician, not having to choose between buying winter boots or going to the doctor, or getting the critical scans and tests to make sure your cancer is still in remission.
“For all Americans, but particularly young Americans, this is a historic moment that guarantees affordable, stable health care for all,” said Aaron Smith, co-founder of the health reform advocacy group Young Invincibles, in a statement released Monday. “This bill will provide our generation with the opportunity to pursue our dreams without fear of a lack of health insurance."