President Barack Obama has signed a bill extending medical care to an extra four million children. The legislation represents an early victory for Democrats in Congress, and is similar to a bill twice vetoed by former president George W. Bush.
AFP - President Barack Obama on Wednesday signed a bill extending medical care to an extra four million children, which he said was a "down payment" on his vow to guarantee health benefits to all Americans.
The legislation represents an early victory for Democrats in Congress and Obama's fledgling administration, and is similar to a bill twice vetoed by former president George W. Bush.
It was also a timely boost for Obama's healthcare plans, the day after he lost Tom Daschle, the Washington veteran he had named to pilot his reforms but who had to step down over a controversy over late paid taxes.
"I refuse to accept that millions of our children fail to reach their full potential because we fail to meet their basic needs," Obama said, before signing the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) legislation.
"In a decent society, there are certain obligations that are not subject to tradeoffs or negotiation -- health care for our children is one of those obligations."
The House of Representatives passed the bill by a margin of 290-135 votes earlier Wednesday. It had already cleared the Senate.
The measure expands health care to an additional four million children over the next four-and-a-half years while continuing coverage for about seven million children already covered.
The 32.8-billion-dollar boost will be funded mostly by a 62-cent-per-pack increase in federal taxes on cigarettes, which the bill's backers say will discourage more than one million children from taking up smoking.
"The way I see it, providing coverage to 11 million children ... is a down payment on my commitment to cover every single American," Obama said.
"It is just one component of a much broader effort to finally bring our health care system into the twenty-first century."
House speaker Nancy Pelosi was jubilant after the bill passed.
"This is the day we have worked for, prayed for, hoped for," she said.
Date created : 2009-02-04