President Signs Health Insurance Reform Bill into Law

President Barack Obama signed a health care reform bill into law extending medical coverage to nearly 32 million uninsured Americans.

“Our presence here today is remarkable and improbable,” Obama said at the signing of the bill. “With all the punditry, all of the lobbying, all of the game-playing that passes for governing in Washington, it’s been easy at times to doubt our ability to do such a big thing, such a complicated thing; to wonder if there are limits to what we, as a people, can still achieve. It’s easy to succumb to the sense of cynicism about what’s possible in this country.”

He continued, “[We] have now just enshrined, as soon as I sign this bill, the core principle that everybody should have some basic security when it comes to their health care. And it is an extraordinary achievement that has happened because of all of you and all the advocates all across the country.”

The president of the American Medical Association (AMA), J. James Rohack, MD, called the signing of H.R. 3590 by Obama “a monumental moment in the health of our nation.”

“While more still needs to be done, this bill makes real progress toward providing coverage to all Americans and improving our nation’s health care system,” Rohack stated in an AMA press release. “Physicians see firsthand the pain and heartbreak that being uninsured causes in the lives of America’s patients. Today, we move forward to start to ease that pain.”

While some have called the legislation historic, other groups are filing lawsuits to nullify the bill. NJ Physicians, a physician-run organization that advocates for physicians and patients in the state, has filed a federal lawsuit alleging that Congress “violated citizens’ Constitutional rights and undermined the sovereignty of the states” with the legislation.

According to a NJ Physicians press release, the group backs health care reform, but opposes the recently signed legislation.

“This act predominantly addresses insurance coverage issues without correcting a system that mandates the practice of defensive medicine and encourages inefficient care models,” Steven Kern, attorney for NJ Physicians, stated in the release. “True reform would overhaul the health care system to reward efficiency and successful outcomes.”

Members of the U.S. House of Representatives passed the health care reform bill in a rare weekend vote (219 to 212) that fell along party lines. The bill was approved by the Senate in December.

In addition to extending health coverage to the uninsured, the legislation increases payments to primary care physicians who treat Medicare patients, allows children to stay on the policies of their parents until the age of 26 and prevents insurance companies from cancelling coverage in cases other than fraud, according to the AMA release.

“We will remain actively engaged to ensure that before Congress adjourns there are additional important changes to our health system that couldn’t be addressed in the reconciliation process, including repeal of the Medicare physician payment formula that threatens access to care for seniors and military families and changes to the Independent Payment Advisory Board,” Rohack said in the release. “We will be relentless in our pursuit for medical liability reform and other important actions that we outlined in a recent letter to Congress.”

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