On Monday June 29th, the House passed the first significant expansion of the Affordable Care Act since its birth a decade ago. The 234-179 vote, almost entirely along party lines, was a hollow exercise in terms of any chance the bill would become law and reshape federal health policy. Moments after the debate began, the White House announced the president would veto the legislation if it reached his desk, though a wall of Senate Republican opposition to the measure makes that a moot point.

Monday’s vote symbolized that House Democrats have a path to make health insurance and treatment more accessible at a moment when the novel  coronavirus  — and the jobs the pandemic has cost — has strained the U.S. health system, robbed millions of Americans of health benefits and caused nearly 125,000 deaths nationwide.

The legislation would add to some of the ACA’s central elements by expanding eligibility for insurance subsidies to those at higher incomes and pressuring more than a dozen states to expand Medicaid.