Passed in an afternoon session on Christmas Eve, the Senate version of America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 signaled a turning point in the battle for federal health care reform.

“With today’s vote, we are now incredibly close to making health insurance reform a reality in this country,” said President Obama, in a press conference congratulating the Senate for passing its version of health care reform. “Our challenge, then, is to finish the job.”

Referring to the task of combining the House and the Senate versions of health care reform, Obama expressed his confidence that 2010 would be the year that the United States would finally accomplish this key reform goal.

The battle for health care reform, however, is far from over. Significant differences in both the House and Senate versions leave room for more heated debate and alleged backroom deals. The House version, for example, contains a public option that the Senate bill does not.

Other controversial issues include insurance market reform, abortion funding, and the financing of the bill. Tax increases are outlined in both bills, but who pays and how much differs. Along with taxation controversy, coverage and employer mandates have sparked a constitutional debate. It is argued that across the board participation is key to the success of any health care reform legislation, however, lawyers and district attorneys are questioning the government’s constitutional powers to mandate citizens purchase health care coverage.

Once the Senate and House bills are combined in conference committee, it must pass a vote on the chamber floor. The final step is Obama’s signature before the bill becomes a law. Speculations are ranging wildly as to how long the rest of this process will take, but Congress has just returned to session and no promises or solid targets have been set as of late.


Tougher enforcement of energy efficiency laws is on its way, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). On Dec. 9, the government agency announced that manufacturers of certain residential products would receive a 30-day window, which ended Jan. 8, to submit accurate certification reports and compliance statements as part of enhanced enforcement of DOE’s energy efficiency appliance standards program.

Under federal law, manufacturers of some products covered by DOE appliance standards are required to certify with the department that their models meet the energy conservation standards.

The 30-day period was offered to help DOE ensure compliance with its regulations, sanction those who fail to comply, and treat all those subject to the requirements fairly and equally.

“Certification reports provide the Department with important information that allow us to verify if a manufacturer is complying with the energy-efficiency standards that deliver significant energy and cost savings to the American public,” said Scott Blake Harris, DOE general counsel. “This 30-day period will provide all manufacturers the same opportunity to submit correct data to DOE before we begin broader enforcement actions.”

Now that the 30-day window has passed, the DOE expressed that it will begin aggressively enforcing these reporting requirements, including seeking civil penalties or fines.

“This 30-day period did not apply to violations of the actual energy conservation standards,” said the DOE. “We will continue to take action against any manufacturer whose products do not meet the federal efficiency standards.”

HVAC products covered by the standards, or those that require certification reports and compliance statements, excluding those designed solely for use in recreational vehicles and other mobile equipment, include: central a/c, central a/c heat pumps, direct heating equipment, furnaces, and room air conditioners.

The information required by the government includes the manufacturer’s name and model numbers, and the private labeler’s name if applicable. In addition, each covered product required specific additional information to be submitted.

Central a/c information required is the SEER rating and the model number of ducted air mover if applicable. Central a/c heat pump information included SEER rating as well as the HSPF, and the model number of ducted air mover if applicable. Direct heating required AFUE and capacity; furnaces required AFUE; and room a/c required EER and capacity.

Publication date:01/18/2010