Now That It's Passed: What You Need to Know About the Senate Health Care Bill

"Politics has caused compromises that may make the 'victory' hollow in that $1 trillion will not buy adequate truly affordable health care for a large segment of the population," said Arthur Garson, dean of the school of medicine at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

What It Might Mean for Americans

Health care reform proponents lauded the fact that the bill would provide the same coverage to people regardless of pre-existing conditions.

"The industry will no longer be able to base the individual's premiums on the individual's health status," Reinhardt said.

David Orentlichter, co-director of the Center for Law and Health, Indiana University, concurred. "Insurers will have to charge the same rates to all persons -- with some freedom to charge higher rates based on age."

Others noted that the legislation, if ultimately passed, will have other beneficial effects as well.

"New Medicare payment and quality reporting strategies will improve patient safety, cut medical errors, and increase the quality of care," said Washington and Lee University law professor and health care expert Tim Jost.

But some expressed concern that the effort could have unintended consequences.

"Every one of these new regulations ... will necessarily increase costs of insurance and raised premium costs -- exactly what the Democratic leadership claims won't happen," said Richard Saltman, an international health expert at Emory University in Atlanta.

"Doctors will be forced to change how they make their medical decisions," said Scott Gottlieb of the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute. "[The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] will be given the authority to unilaterally write new rules on when medical devices and drugs can be used, and how they should be priced."

Going Forward: What It Means for Politics

If there is one matter upon which those from both sides agree, it is that the fierce fight over the direction of health care in the next decade will lead to lasting rifts between those in favor of the bill and those who are opposed to it.

"The nearly complete detachment of one of our main political parties from addressing the challenges of either coverage or cost control is also found nowhere else in the world," noted Alan Sager, director of the Health Reform Program at the Boston University School of Public Health.

And Saltman said the battle is "only the first chapter in a new phase of what will become an increasingly acrimonious and politically volatile period in our health system -- one that many politicians on both sides of the political divide may soon wish had never begun."

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