Obama signs $33 billion bill about additional funding for SCHIP

Within hours of the House of Representatives backing the nearly $33 billion additional funding for the State Children's Health Insurance Programme (SCHIP) on Wednesday, President Barack Obama signed the bill, saying that it was a significant stride towards fulfilling his promise of universal health care in the US.

The legislation, expanding government-funded health insurance for children, indicates a notable swing in Washington's political scenario and is being considered the biggest victory for the White House after Obama assumed office.

A year-and-half back, similar bills by congressional Democrats had been wedged by former President Bush, terming the expansion of SCHIP as a step in the direction of government-run health care. However, now, with the Democrats decisively in control of the White House and Congress, the measure easily sailed through!

As a result of the new legislation, government-subsidized insurance would reach out to 4 million children, mostly from low-income families.

Over the next four-and-half years, the number of uninsured children in the US will be reduced by almost half, as nearly 11 million children will be covered by the program. A large part of the additional $33 billion funding required for SCHIP's expansion will come by increasing the federal tobacco tax.

Welcoming the new legislation, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said: "This is the day we have worked for, prayed for, hoped for!"

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