News / USA

US Health Care Reform Faces Final Hurdle

The focus of U.S. health-care reform now shifts to the Senate, where members are debating a package of revisions, or fixes, to a bill President Barack Obama signed into law Tuesday.

Senators are considering legislation that the House of Representatives has approved to modify the health care bill passed on Sunday.  Some Democratic House members insisted on those revisions, in exchange for their support of the $940 billion bill.

Republicans in the Senate are offering numerous amendments to the fixes bill, in an apparent effort to block its passage.  If the legislation is changed in any way, it must go back to the House of Representatives for another vote.

The Senate is expected to begin voting on amendments as early as Wednesday night.

Republicans have fiercely opposed the Democrats' plan for extending health care insurance coverage, saying it is too costly and represents an unnecessary government intrusion into personal medical decisions.  

Republican senators cannot use a filibuster to block the fixes bill, because it is being debated under special budget rules that require only a simple majority for approval instead of the 60 votes usually required in the 100-seat chamber.  Democrats recently lost their 60th Senate seat.

Republican lawmakers also have launched a wider campaign to "repeal and replace" the new health care law, in an effort to attract voters ahead of congressional elections in November.

The Department of Justice has vowed to "vigorously defend" the new health care reform legislation, after 14 states filed lawsuits Tuesday calling the reforms unconstitutional.  State officials contend the law infringes on state sovereignty by requiring all Americans to have some sort of health insurance.  

The law will extend health coverage to 32 million Americans who are without insurance.  It will provide subsidies for people to purchase mandatory private insurance, and also includes tax credits for small businesses that provide coverage for their employees.  Insurance companies will now be barred from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, or from dropping people when they get sick.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.

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