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Health Care Bill "Fixed" and ready for America
Student loan overhaul the dominant focus of bill signed Tuesday
Finalizing one of his top domestic priorities after a year of debate, President Obama signed into law Tuesday several fixes Congress approved to the health care bill signed on March 23.
The Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act added $65 billion more to the bill signed by Obama last week. It also garnered more attention for how it affects students by removing commercial banks as the primary source of providing student loans.
The government will now be in charge of issuing direct loans to students without banks acting as middlemen and charging high fees for loans.
In accordance with the bill, the plan is expected to save $68 billion, which will be used to expand the federal Pell Grant program and other education initiatives as well as reducing the deficit.
"It represents a major step forward," Obama told the audience at Virginia Community College where he signed the bill.
The initiatives are expected to grant $2.55 billion worth of funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Also, student loans will be capped in 20 years if they are paid on time.
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), applauded the bill for containing several of the provisions supported by the Caucus.
"Educational attainment is one of the most important factors in long-term economic security, and this legislation will make higher education more affordable and accessible," Lee said. "This bill is a critical down-payment toward the future prosperity of millions of Americans and our nation as a whole."
The provisions were regarded as one of the most significant overhauls to student loans in history.
Not to be overlooked, the "fixes" in the health care bill were the second step before the bill began to take effect this year.
They include the following:
Â¥ The fine for individuals who fail to purchase suitable coverage by 2016 is reduced from $750 to $695. The initial fine will not be enforced until 2014 when it starts at $95 per citizen.
Â¥ Large companies who fail to provide health coverage for employees will be fined $2,000 per employee, as opposed to $750 initially.
Â¥ Closing the "doughnut hole" in Medicare prescriptions by 2020. The bill signed last week already provided a $250 rebate to citizens for drug costs that exceed $2,830 and are smaller than $4,550.
Several components of the bill will begin to be implemented this year, including the following:
Â¥ Young adults will be able to remain on their parent's insurance plan until age 26
Â¥ Small business owners with under 50 employees will eligible for tax credits covering 35 percent of their health care premiums.
Â¥ Pre-existing conditions will be covered by insurance providers.
Â¥ New plans must cover preventive care.
The bill was passed and signed in spite of unanimous Republican opposition. It is expected that the President will now turn his domestic focus to improving the nation's unemployment rate--currently at 9.7 percent--and immigration reform.