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Latest update : 2010-03-25

The US Senate on Thursday passed a package of technical changes to President Obama’s healthcare reform bill, sending it back to the House of Representatives, where the legislation is expected to be passed in a final vote.

REUTERS - The U.S. Senate on Thursday approved a package of changes to President Barack Obama’s landmark healthcare overhaul and sent it to the House of Representatives for final passage.

The changes put the finishing touches on the sweeping healthcare reform bill already signed into law by Obama, who visited Iowa on Thursday as part of a public relations blitz to sell the new plan.

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

“This has been a legislative fight that will be in the record books,” Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid said before the final vote.

The changes approved by the Senate include an expansion of subsidies to make insurance more affordable and more state aid for the Medicaid program 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 overhaul of the $2.5 trillion healthcare system is the most dramatic revamp of health policy in four decades. It will extend coverage to an estimated 32 million uninsured Americans and bar insurance practices like refusing coverage to those with pre-existing medical conditions.

Republicans uniformly oppose the reforms and have vowed to make repealing the law a major issue in November’s elections.

The House approved the overhaul and the companion package of changes on Sunday after a contentious debate, but must vote again on the changes after the Senate parliamentarian ordered two minor provisions be removed.

The parliamentarian ruled the provisions do not meet reconciliation rules requiring they have a budgetary impact.

Date created : 2010-03-25

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