After days of procural votes, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act finally passed in the Senate early Thursday morning by a margin of 60-39. The sweeping reform legislation now moves to a conference committee where Senate and House negotiators will forge a single bill that each chamber must once more vote on before sending it on to the President for final passage.

Rife with implications for the insurance industry, the bill includes prohibitions on denying coverage for preexisting conditions and on rescinding coverage when policyholders fall ill. The legislation also introduces health care exchanges where individuals or groups can buy coverage and seeks to regulate the “medical loss ratio” or percentage of premium dollars that insurance companies spend on patient services versus profits or administrative costs.

Robert Rusbuldt, president & CEO of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America, said he was pleased that the bill did not contain a public option but that the organization still opposes the legislation.

“Should the version of the bill that passed on a party-line vote today ever get signed into law, at least it includes provisions that will ensure independent insurance agents and brokers are able to sell health insurance plans both inside and outside of the newly created health insurance exchanges,” Rusbuldt said in a statement. “It is critical to note that the health care bill the Senate passed today fails to bend the cost curve for health insurance consumers, including millions of small businesspeople,” continues Rusbuldt. “As the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report, dated Nov. 30 points out: under this bill, small businesses will see little to no decrease in their monthly premiums and individuals will see an increase of 10-13%.”

Karen Ignagni, President and CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), also expressed her disapproval of the bill. “Specific provisions in this legislation will increase, rather than decrease, health care costs; reduce coverage options; and disrupt existing coverage for families, seniors and small businesses–particularly between now and when the legislation is fully implemented in 2014,” Ignagni said in a statement.



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