By Arun Kumar
Washington, March 23 (IANS) As President Barack Obama prepared to sign into law Tuesday the historic health care reform legislation, 11 opposition Republican states were reported to be planning to mount a legal challenge.
Obama also will hit the road to sell the $940 billion plan projected to extend insurance coverage to roughly 32 million more Americans. He starts with a speech Thursday in Iowa City, where he had launched his grassroots drive for health care reform in May 2007, said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.
The US House of Representatives late Sunday night approved the Senate version of the bill, which constitutes the biggest expansion of federal health care guarantees in more than four decades, passed with no Republican support.
A separate compromise package of changes also passed the House Sunday and still needs to be approved by the Senate. But the Senate cannot begin debate on the package before Obama signs the main bill into law.
Meanwhile, Florida's Republican attorney general Bill McCollum announced Monday he and nine other states would file a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the new health care reform bill once Obama signs it into law. He said he'll be joined by his counterparts in Republican Alabama, Nebraska, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Washington. But McCollum said the lawsuit would be about the law and not politics.
Separately, Virginia's Republican attorney general announced his state would also file a lawsuit challenging the health care bill. McCollum said the lawsuit would challenge the bill's provision requiring people to purchase health insurance, along with provisions that will force state government to spend more on health care services.
An unfazed Gibbs said the Obama administration expected to win any lawsuits filed against the health care bill. He also challenged Republicans to campaign for the November election against benefits of the health care bill such as tax credits for small businesses and an end to insurance company practices such as denying coverage for pre-existing conditions.
Passage of the bill was a huge boost for Obama, who had made health care reform a domestic priority. But senior Republicans in Congress warned that voters will judge Democrats harshly in November's midterm elections.
Under the new law, most Americans will be required to have health insurance or pay a fine. Larger employers will be required to provide coverage or risk financial penalties. Lifetime coverage limits will be banned and insurers will be barred from denying coverage based on gender or pre-existing conditions.
The compromise package would add to the bill's total cost partly by expanding insurance subsidies for middle- and lower-income families. The measure would scale back the bill's taxes on expensive insurance plans.
The House's approval of the reform package has received mixed reviews with consumer groups praising it and insurers giving it a thumbs down.
The American Medical Association (AMA), the largest physician group, also applauded new measures to increase payments for primary care physicians caring for Medicaid patients and give bonus payments to physicians who work in underserved areas.
However, America's Health Insurance Plans, the group representing nearly 1,300 member companies, said the legislation doesn't go far enough in addressing escalating health care costs and improving the quality of care.