Republicans vow to repeal health-care bill

The new bill that redefines U.S. health-care coverage will be repealed if it becomes law, some prominent Republicans predicted Monday, one day before President Barack Obama is expected to make it so.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi is applauded by other members of the U.S. House of Representatives on Monday after signing the health-care bill. ((Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press))

The new bill that redefines U.S. health-care coverage will be repealed if it becomes law, some prominent Republicans predicted Monday, a day before President Barack Obama is expected to make it so.

House Democratic leaders signed the bill Monday as a matter of procedure. Obama is expected to sign the bill into law in a special ceremony on Tuesday, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Monday afternoon.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi's signature was put on the health-care reform bill a day after the U.S. House of Representatives passed the contentious bill. ((Haraz N. Ghanbari/Associated Press))

Jubilant Democrats, however, have not heard the last of the debate, Senator John McCain of Arizona said Monday, adding that he was repulsed by "all this euphoria going on."

McCain told ABC's Good Morning America that outside the Washington, D.C., area, "the American people are very angry" and don't like the bill.

"We're going to repeal this," he pledged.

Negativity could backfire, analyst says

Former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who called the bill "unhealthy for America," said a campaign to repeal the act "begins today."

The Republicans "will challenge it every place we can," and there will be reprisals at the polls, in Congress and in the courts, McCain said.

Opponents of a bill to provide health-care insurance to more Americans demonstrate outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Sunday. ((Jason Reed/Reuters))

That strategy could backfire, suggests Stephen Hess, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

The Republicans "may have overplayed their hand," Hess told CBC News. "The sort of 'Dr. No' image that they gave as a party is certainly not very positive or very attractive."

The House of Representatives voted 219-212 in favour of the landmark legislation that has been debated on Capitol Hill for a year. It will make coverage possible for 32 million uninsured Americans and end discrimination by insurance companies against people with existing medical conditions.

Every single Republican voted against it, as did 34 Democrats.

Even if the bill is written into law on Tuesday, most of the reforms are still a long way away from being felt in the broader economy. Among the legislation's more immediate impacts, within the calendar year 2010, seniors in the Medicare drug coverage gap will be mailed $250 rebate checks, and young adults moving from college to work will be able to stay on their parents' plans until they turn 26.

The plan's more ambitious aims — namely, to mandate that insurers must accept all applicants and won't be able to turn down people in poor health, or charge them more — are not scheduled to be rolled out until 2014, as will a plan to expand Medicaid to cover more low-income people.

Obama has pledged $5 billion to fund a pool to cover individuals who lose their coverage because they get sick, but those funds are likely to run out well before 2014, when the legislation mandating that comes into effect. 

Congressional analysts estimate the cost of the two bills combined will be $940 billion US over 10 years. However, the health-care reform will also trim about  $138 billion from the federal deficit over the same period — through changes to Medicare and other programs, a reduction in subsidies and the taxing of high-cost insurance.

The apparent cost of the reform was too much for Dave Canelli.

"It's going to cost America a lot of money that we just can't afford," the New York resident told Reuters news agency Monday.  

"I think the country needs health-care reform, but I think this bill was bad."  

For Benjamin Joy of Oregon, the change is welcome.

"The U.S., being the richest country in the world, should have something like this," Joy told Reuters.

Companion package still needs passage

Congress also approved a companion package to the bill by a 220-211 vote. That package makes a series of changes sought by House Democrats to the larger bill, which already passed the Senate.

The fix-it bill will now go to the Senate, where debate is expected to begin as early as Tuesday. 

Senate Democrats hope to approve it unchanged and send it directly to Obama.

Republicans intend to attempt parliamentary objections that could change the bill and require it to go back to the House.

Meanwhile, up to a dozen individual states are also vowing to try to repeal the bill.

Attorneys general in Florida and South Carolina, among others, say they'll file lawsuits claiming the bill passed by the House is unconstitutional and violates states' sovereign rights.

Undaunted, Obama is scheduled to travel to Iowa on Thursday to begin selling the health care bill to regular Americans as they prepare to go the polls in mid-term elections in November.

With files from The Associated Press