Senate passes health care bill

The United States Senate has approved a hard-fought measure to overhaul the health care system. The vote will be followed by the difficult process of reconciling the Senate-passed bill with one approved by the House of Representatives, in order to get a final measure to President Barack Obama.

“The yeas are 60, the nays are 39. H.R. 3590 as amended, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is passed,” Vice President Joe Biden announced. Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky did not show up for the vote leading to the 39 nays. Mike Reynard, a spokesman for Bunning said in an e-mail that, “The senator had family commitments.”

The vice president presided over the Senate at the time of the vote in his role as President of the United States Senate.

As expected, Republicans voted against the bill while all Democrats and two Independents, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, voted for it.

At an estimated $87 billion, the measure would expand health insurance coverage to about 30 million more Americans currently without it, and create new private insurance marketplaces, or exchanges, to expand choice.

And, like the slightly more expensive measure passed by the House of Representatives, the Affordable Health Care for America Act, it would end a practice by private insurance companies of denying coverage to individuals with existing health problems.

Both the Senate and House measures would require nearly all Americans to purchase some form of insurance, while lower-income Americans would receive help from federal government subsidies.

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