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US Senate backs healthcare fix

The US Senate on Thursday approved a package of changes to President Barack Obama’s landmark healthcare reforms, and Obama dared Republicans to try to repeal the new law.

business Updated: Mar 26, 2010 20:59 IST

The US Senate on Thursday approved a package of changes to President Barack Obama’s landmark healthcare reforms, and Obama dared Republicans to try to repeal the new law.

The House of Representatives is expected to give final approval to the changes later in the day and send them to Obama for his signature, concluding a yearlong struggle that has tied up lawmakers, dented Obama’s popularity and set the stage for a bitter campaign for control of Congress in November.

The changes put the finishing touches on the sweeping healthcare reform bill signed into law this week by Obama, who visited Iowa on Thursday to launch a public relations blitz to sell the new programme.

Obama warned Republicans, who uniformly opposed the overhaul and have vowed to make repealing the law a central issue in November’s elections, that efforts to reverse the healthcare reforms would backfire. “If they want to have that fight, I welcome that fight,” Obama said.

The changes approved by the Senate on a 56-43 vote include an expansion of subsidies to make insurance more affordable and more state aid for the Medicaid programme for the poor.

They also eliminate a controversial Senate deal exempting Nebraska from paying for Medicaid expansion costs, close a gap in prescription drug coverage for seniors and delay a tax on high-cost insurance plans.

The final package also would extend taxes for Medicare, the federal health insurance programme for the elderly, to unearned income. It also includes reform of the student loan programme.