Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Obama signs national healthcare overhaul law

The news from Washington that President Barack Obama had signed into law the hard-fought healthcare reform bill set off cheers in the White House and cries of outrage from Republican statehouses across the country. The months of partisan sniping over the bill that seemed to threaten the very foundation of the political system of the United States were on hold Tuesday, at least temporarily, for a signing ceremony in the East Room of the White House, according to the Reuters international news agency. "We have now just enshrined, as soon as I sign this bill, the core principle that everybody should have some basic security when it comes to their healthcare," Obama said. But as expected in the partisan-divided atmosphere that permeates federal policymaking, 14 states filed suit minutes after the bill-signing to try to block the sweeping $940 billion overhaul of the nation's healthcare system and Republicans in Congress vowed to continue to resist the measure. Democrats said they had the votes to pass a package of changes needed to implement the bill. Among the changes approved by Congress are provisions that extend coverage to $32 million people who do not have health insurance now, bar insurers from refusing coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions, expand Medicaid and raise taxes on the wealthy. Obama said he thought most U.S. residents will be happy with the changes, even though everyone will be required to purchase health insurance with the help of government subsidies. "I'm confident you'll like what you see," Obama said. But Republicans do not. Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, a Republican whose department is one of the states that filed suit, said the bill was unconstitutional because it required all residents to have insurance. "It forces people to do something -- in the sense of buying a health care policy or paying a penalty, a tax or a fine -- that simply the Constitution does not allow Congress to do," he said. Other Republican critics of the legislation vowed to make opposition to the legislation a focal point of midterm congressional elections scheduled for November, Reuters said.

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