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US health plan clears major hurdle -

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US health plan clears major hurdle

John Shovelan reported this story on Monday, November 9, 2009 12:34:00

ELEANOR HALL: In the United States, House of Representatives has passed a massive health reform
bill on the weekend. Now President, Barack Obama, is urging the Senate to take up the challenge of
health reform.

The administration is seeking to introduce major changes that would bring the US health system more
into line with European and the Australian systems.

From Washington John Shovelan reports.

JOHN SHOVELAN: The House vote on healthcare reform was a hard-won victory for the President.

BARACK OBAMA: For years we've been told that this couldn't be done but last night the House proved
different.

JOHN SHOVELAN: The Democratic Party-controlled House narrowly passed the sweeping legislation - 220
votes to 215 - with 39 Democrats voting no and only one Republican in the chamber. Joseph Cao, a
first-term representative - who holds an overwhelmingly Democratic seat in New Orleans - supporting
the bill.

JOSEPH CAO: A lot of my constituents are uninsured. A lot of them are poor.

JOHN SHOVELAN: Republicans have pledged to do all they can to stop the bill. There would be dire
consequences if it becomes law according to the House minority leader John Boehner.

JOHN BOEHNER: This bill is the greatest threat to freedom that I have seen in the 19 years I have
been here in Washington.

JOHN SHOVELAN: The bill passed mandates that most people have insurance and provides subsidies for
those who can't afford it. Big companies would have to offer coverage to their workers. Insurance
companies could no longer deny coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions.

Woman pay higher premiums than men - this would be banned but by far the most controversial
provision in the House bill is the 'public option' where the government would sell insurance. It
would create a health insurance plan financed by premiums, to provide an option in direct
competition with private insurers.

BARACK OBAMA: Given the heated and often misleading rhetoric surrounding this legislation, I know
that this was a courageous vote for many members of Congress. Now it falls on the United States
Senate to take the baton and bring this effort to the finish line on behalf of the American people.

JOHN SHOVELAN: But Senator Lindsey Graham a moderate Republican says the House bill won't survive
the Senate debate.

LINDSEY GRAHAM: The House bill is dead on arrival in the Senate. Just look at how it passed. It
passed 220 to 215. It passed by two votes. We had 40, 39 Democrats vote against the bill.

JOHN SHOVELAN: And independent Democrat Senator Joe Lieberman says he will support a filibuster if
the government insurance option isn't removed.

JOE LIEBERMAN: The public option plan is unnecessary. It has been put forward, I'm convinced, by
people who really want the government to take over all of health insurance and they have got a
right to do that.

I think that would be wrong. If the public option plan is in there, as a matter of conscience, I
will not allow this bill to come to a final vote because I believe the debt can break America and
send us into a recession that is worse than the one we are fighting our way out of today.

JOHN SHOVELAN: The House bill, almost 2000 pages long, was a major step towards the health reform
goal sought by Democrats for decades. But the Senate hasn't produced its own bill for debate and
the struggle Democrats had in the House in securing just enough votes for passage is a sign of how
difficult it's going to be to get legislation to the President for his signature.

John Shovelan, Washington.