March 19th, 2010
08:05 PM ET

Health care reform: Where we stand, what's at stake

Clinic workers participate in a health care rally in support of President Obama in Oakland, California.

The debate over health care reform is coming down to the wire, with a first vote in the House likely scheduled for Sunday.

Final plea: President Obama plans to address the House Democratic caucus on Saturday to make his final case for health care reform, according to four Democratic officials familiar with the plans.

One of the officials said the House Democrats are expected to come to the White House at 4 p.m. Saturday. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because of final details still being discussed between the White House and congressional officials.

Obama planned to meet with and call Congress members Friday afternoon, as he has been doing throughout the week.

Obama's push: President Obama took his health care message to George Mason University on Friday, telling the crowd, "We are going to do something historic this weekend."

The president framed the vote as a choice between a victory for the insurers or "victory for the American people."

Cost of the health care bill

There's been widespread discussion about health care, how much it will cost and where the money will come from. On Thursday, politicians got a key number: the price tag.

According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the health care reform bill will cost $940 billion. GOP leaders said the new CBO estimates had not changed their opinion of the bill, which they vehemently oppose. But the number, which was touted by Pelosi as better than she expected, could help push fiscal conservatives and the "Blue Dog" Democrats toward voting yes.

The compromise plan would cut the nation's deficit by $138 billion over the next 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. It would further reduce the deficit by more than $1 trillion in the following decade. But the money has to come from somewhere, right? Here's a breakdown of some of the ways the latest health reform bill would be paid for and where the legislation differs notably from the Senate bill.

Read the CBO estimate (PDF) or a section-by-section CBO analysis (PDF).

Our partners at Time magazine also take a look at how Democrats got the scores and number estimates they wanted on health care reform.


Discussions on health care reform span years. It's been one of President Obama's biggest legislative measures and one of the most hotly contested ones. There have been widespread and differing bills up for discussion the House and Senate, but it had been unclear how to the two would ever come together.

Thursday, three months after the passage of a Senate bill, we finally got our answer when the House Rules Committee issued its 153-page reconciliation proposal (PDF). It contains "legislative fixes" to the Senate measure.

See highlights of the compromised bill as well as how it will be paid for, what is mandated in it and what still poses some concerns.

Chasing the votes

Democratic leadership is trying to muster the 216 votes needed to get the bill passed.

Multiple Democratic leadership sources told CNN that Democrats have more than 200 "yes" votes, although it was not clear Friday night how close Democrats were to securing the 216 votes they need.

Twenty-nine House Democrats have indicated to CNN they will join Republicans in opposing the Senate plan. That leaves opponents of reform nine votes shy of defeating the measure.

See the running tab on how Democrats plan to vote.

Reform: What it means for Americans and politics

And with poll numbers changing, what do most Americans think of health care reform? Time spoke with Obama's top pollster, who thinks those numbers don't exactly matter because they don't necessarily reflect accurate views on health care but more broad discontent with politics in Washington.

If a vote does come Sunday, it still won't be the end of a bitter battle between Democrats and Republicans. Experts say the results could affect midterm elections. So asked, who's winning the war on health care, the Democrats or the Republicans?

And with parties on both sides holding steadfast in their beliefs, what happens if the health care reform push fails?

That's part of what worries small businesses. While Congress is immersed in a fierce debate about the future of America's health insurance system, entrepreneurs from coast to coast are facing a crisis of their own right now. Officials in some states aren't waiting any longer for Washington to come up with solutions; they are tackling them on their own.
soundoff (58 Responses)
  1. Fargo1

    America is the Only Industrialized nation on Earth that Doesnt have a Nationalized HealthCare System.
    What are you afraid of?

    March 20, 2010 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
  2. rodger ebert

    I am a senior citizen and I have yet to see ANY gov't program that will and or has reduced the deficet or that ever comes below cost. The gov't does not run like a company and have to make a profit for the owners or share holders.

    March 20, 2010 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jim Athey

    So much for America as we know it, the first step to socialism or worse

    March 20, 2010 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Craig Sienerth

    Why is it that citizens don't participate in rallies or protest to get things handled? When the government says "no" we just roll over like a dog and accept it. "We the People" have to be in the drivers seat. Socialized medicine was done in 1 day in Britain, and during the war. It was a simple 2 paragraph explanation of the conversion process – – – DONE! Of course, put a little money into some pockets for a vote and its all over. This is where a democracy is not so great.

    March 20, 2010 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Mike

    Almost anywhere in Western Europe provides far better healthcare to its citizens than we have in US. Don't believe what some rabid republicans and ther health industry allies want to push over you,

    March 20, 2010 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
  6. MysteryMoves

    James, every country that has attempted Health Care reform has experienced fierce opposition, therefore what you see unfolding is no different anywhere else. Not long ago, NPR replayed news "sky's falling" scenarios that opposition claimed would occur if Canada approved a government run health care system, but it was approved, and the truth is that both Canada and England love their government run health care system. Obama wasn't joking in suggesting that Health Care reform was good politics. The cost of Medicare is spiraling out of control and I'm glad that most Democrats have the guts to do something versus do nothing republicans. The republican play book to eliminate existing social programs in this country is block legislation that allow us to calibrate and fine tune these systems so they are viable. What amazes me is how the poorest & dumbest Americans back republicans legislation to tax themselves; mean while submissive about giving tax breaks to the wealthy – that amazes me most! Dumb and dumber!!!

    March 20, 2010 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
  7. MysteryMoves

    Sinking Quick, have you not been listening? All Americans pay on average an additional $1,000.00 annual premium on your health care because of the uninsured. Do you still not get it? Ok, when people get very sick they go to the hospital – why, because they are on death door steps and in serious pain. A hospital cannot turn away these people untreated, otherwise you would have a pile of dead bodies at front door of emergency. They can pay and there is no insurance to cover costs, so our premiums increase to cover this loss. If everyone is covered then the cost of health care goes down for everyone because approx 5% of the covered consume 90% of the cost, therefore there will be a higher % of healthy folks covering the cost of the sick given most everyone is covered.

    March 20, 2010 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
  8. donZo

    have worked in health care for many years, not as broken as everyone seems to think!!!

    March 20, 2010 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jon

    I am simply appalled at the people shouting that this bill is a step towards communism. It makes no sense whatsoever. I don't know whether these people are just dumb enough to believe the lies the GOP leaders are spreading or if they truly have no idea what communism really means. Health care is not a something that only the priveledged wealthy should be able to afford. This bill isn't perfect, but is certainly a dramatic step in the right direction. Unfortunately, I don't know if this Nation will ever full recover from the slash-and-burn political warfare carried out by the Republicans in this past year. The lies know no bounds and the distrust and hatred that has resulted will linger for years.

    March 20, 2010 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Tony

    Get real people. 33 MILLION ppl without health care will derail this country faster than any other nation would.

    March 20, 2010 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
  11. TeddyN

    It WILL be a victory for the American people because it doesn't just do something for the rich. It is for everyone and also finally instead of putting all the burden on the midddle class while the upper class has it easy it eases the burden. Also, it shows that ALL, not just conservative, so called Christian, Republicans have a say. The republicans, even though they say they were shut out, were given at least a year to come up with something and all they say is throw it out and start over. they want a communistic country that does everything one way, theres. Thats why I changed to the Democratic party after years as republecan. I was ashamed

    March 20, 2010 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
  12. GOT

    I am amazed at many of the critics of cost. We will pay these costs regardless. That is why our premiums go up every year. To pay the un-negotiated prices of the unpaid bills fo the un-insured. Where were these voices in the discussion on the cost of the Iraq war. Where were these voices in the discussion on tax breaks for the rich. Why do these voices only begin to scream over the possiblity that they will have to wait behind someone they consider less "productive" than they are when it comes to health care. Bottom line, Rush and Beck and their supporters are not truly concerned about the cost of government actions. Rather they are concerned about their ability to buy their spot in line ahead of true life Joe the plumbers.

    March 20, 2010 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Martin

    Stop talking for me you libertarians/repuiblicans when you say "we don't want this plan." The majority of this country does which is why we put these leaders in office! Quit including me and millions others in your "we"! Some of us (the majority) selected officials that were for this plan. Others did not want it. Sorry, you lost. This is a representative democracy – not a direct one (like the state government in CA).

    March 20, 2010 at 7:10 pm | Report abuse |
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