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The Final Chapter (but not really)

At 2:35am ET, Republican points of order persuaded the Senate Parliamentarian to strike 16 lines from the Reconciliation Act that deal with technical aspects of federal Pell (education) grants. This afternoon, the Senate ended the amendment process and voted in favor of the Reconciliation Act 56-43. The changes mean the bill goes back to the House for a final (yes, FINAL) vote, expected to pass within the hour before Congress takes off for Spring recess. The vote will mark the end of an unprecedented effort…and the beginning of a new fight.

The law will be tweaked and re-worked for years to come, and many provisions will need to be defended from dismantling. As we have long advocated, coverage expansion is the first and foremost priority in health reform and at its core the law will finally bring the American health care system to near universal coverage, along with the rest of the industrialized world. The next three years of implementation will be crucial to set the foundation, particularly at the state level. Building blocks such as the 1115 Waiver will help bridge that coverage gap while also improving the safety net infrastructure. The unchecked growth in health spending will continue to be a burden on our economy, and though the new law begins to address rising costs we will undoubtedly be forced to meet the growth more head on. Long-term endeavors in cost-containment will take decades, but the short-term benefits of reform will be tangible for millions of Americans.