Monday 11 December 2017

Obama adds final touches to historic health reform bill

Alister Bull in Virginia

PRESIDENT Barack Obama made another bold effort to sell his healthcare overhaul to a dubious public by calling it a victory over special interests that will improve the lives of middle-class Americans.

"This day affirms our ability to overcome the challenges of our politics and meet the challenges of our time," Mr Obama told a college audience outside Washington yesterday, as he signed into law final changes to the sweeping plan approved by lawmakers last week, along with reforms in college student loan programmes.

It capped a year-long struggle between Democrats and Republicans that has set the stage for a bitter campaign for control of Congress in November. Republicans have vowed to make the healthcare bill the centrepiece of the election fight as they seek to repeal it.

President Obama defended legislators who voted for the bill, the most sweeping shift in US social policy in decades, and took aim at what he said were misleading attacks.

"Courage is an essential ingredient in any landmark legislation, particularly when the attacks are as fierce and unrelenting and inaccurate as they have been over the past year. I just want to commend members of Congress who had the courage to do what's right," he said.

But opinion polls show Mr Obama and his party will have to work hard to promote the 10-year, $940 billion (€1,050bn) overhaul.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans say it costs too much and expands the government's role too far, according to a USA Today/Gallup survey.

Sixty-five percent believe the reforms cost too much, and 64pc say they bring too much government involvement into a private industry, the poll said.

In a TV interview yesterday, Mr Obama acknowledged that adjustments will be needed in the law to reduce costs.

US companies have started to count the cash hit they say they will take because of the law.

The government still pays subsidies to large companies to help pay for prescription drugs for their large number of retired staff, but the new law does not allow them to also deduct the amount of the subsidies from their taxable income.

Irish Independent

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