Today President Barack Obama signed into law a landmark health care reform bill, presiding over the biggest shift in U.S. domestic policy since the 1960s and capping a divisive, yearlong debate that could define the November congressional elections.
The law will bring near-universal coverage to a wealthy country in which tens of millions of people are uninsured. The plan’s provisions will be phased in over four years, and it is expected to expand coverage to about 94 percent of eligible non-elderly Americans would have coverage, compared with 83 percent today.
“We have now just enshrined the core principle that everybody should have some basic security when it comes to their health,” Obama said at a signing ceremony at the White House, where he was joined by House and Senate Democrats who backed the bill as well as ordinary Americans whose health care struggles have touched the president.
“We are not a nation that scales back its aspirations. We are not a nation that falls prey to doubt or mistrust,” Obama said. “That’s not who we are. That’s not how we got here.”
The plan is expected to extend coverage to 32 million uninsured Americans, reduce federal budget deficits and ban such insurance company practices as denying coverage to people with existing medical problems.
Obama has pushed health care as his top priority since taking office in January 2009. Failure would have weakened him and endangered other issues on the president’s ambitious domestic agenda, including immigration reform and climate change legislation.
- Associated Press