US Congress approves 'historic' health care overhaul bill

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Washington, Mar 22(ANI): US Congress has approved a legislation over the nation's health care system along the lines proposed by US President Barack Obama that would provide medical coverage to millions of uninsured Americans.

The bill cleared the House on a 219-212 vote, with Republicans unanimous in opposition.

Congressional officials said that they expected Obama, whose crusade for such legislation has been a hallmark of his presidency, to sign the bill as early as Tuesday.

Obama had earlier spoken with 92 lawmakers, either in person or by telephone, for passing the bill, the White House said.

The House also passed a package of changes to the bill and sent it to the Senate, which has promised to take it up in the coming week.

The Democrats hailed the votes as historic and a long overdue step forward in social justice, comparable to the establishment of Medicare and Social Security.

"This is the civil rights act of the 21st century," The New York Times quoted James E. Clyburn, Representative of South Carolina, as saying.

Democrats said that in expanding access to health coverage for uninsured Americans, the government was creating a new program as important as Social Security and Medicare, while also putting downward pressure on rising health care costs and reining in federal budget deficits.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the health care bill would require most Americans to have health insurance, would add 16 million people to the Medicaid rolls and would subsidize private coverage for low- and middle-income people, at a cost to the government of 938 billion dollars over 10 years.

It would also require many employers to offer coverage to employees or pay a penalty.

The budget office estimates that the bill would provide coverage to 32 million uninsured people, but still leave 23 million uninsured in 2019.

Meanwhile, Republicans said the plan would saddle the nation with unaffordable levels of debt, leave states with expensive new obligations, weaken Medicare and give the government a huge new role in the health care system. (ANI)

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