Written by Matthew Bello and Innocent Odoh:
United States President Barack Obama made history yesterday when he signed into law the landmark Health Care bill that introduces sweeping reforms in the country’s health care system, scoring a legislative landmark that had eluded several of his predecessors.
“Today, after almost a century of trying, today after over a year of debate, today after all the votes have been tallied, health insurance reform becomes law in the united states of America,” Obama said at the signing ceremony held at the White House.
The new law will eventually extend health insurance cover to about 32 million Americans who currently do not have any.
An elated Obama said, “I am signing the bill for people like my mother who argued with insurance companies even as she battled cancer in her final days.”
The Republicans regarded the bill as too costly and said they would repeal it.
Obama was joined at the White House signing ceremony by healthcare reform supporters including Democrats from both Houses of Congress who supported the measure.
Obama said the bill’s provisions were “desperately needed”, adding, “The bill I’m signing will set in motion reforms that generations of Americans have fought for and marched for and hungered to see.”
He hailed the “historic leadership and uncommon courage” of the Democratic leadership in Congress that secured the bill’s passage, singling out House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for particular praise.
Vice-President Joe Biden, who was also present at the event, hailed it as a “historic day” that would “change the lives of tens of millions of Americans”.
The president now has to sell the reforms to a divided American public before November’s mid-term elections. He will go to the state of Iowa tomorrow to talk about the benefits of the bill to lower healthcare costs for small businesses and families.
The bill was finally passed by the house on Sunday after a heated debate. The House of Representatives voted 219-212 to send the 10-year, $938 billion bill to Obama. Not one Republican voted for the bill, and some Democrats also voted against it.
The measure, which the Senate passed in December, is expected to expand health insurance coverage to about 95% of eligible Americans, compared with the 83% covered today.
The bill will ban insurance company practices such as denying coverage to people with existing medical problems.
Correspondents said the bill represents the biggest expansion of the Federal Government’s social safety net since President Lyndon Johnson enacted the Medicare and Medicaid government-funded healthcare programmes for the elderly and poor in the 1960s.
The Bill that eluded several of Obama’s predecessors, including Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
Obama’s campaign to overhaul US healthcare seemed stalled in January, when a Republican won a special election to fill the late Edward Kennedy’s Massachusetts Senate seat, and with it, enough Republican votes to prevent the bill from coming to a final vote in the Senate.
But Democrats came up with a plan that required the House to approve the Senate-passed measure – despite its opposition to many of its provisions – and then have both chambers pass a measure incorporating numerous changes.
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