Obama signs health bill into law for new year
President Barack Obama has signed into law a bill that extends health insurance to millions of Americans and expands access to contraception.
The Senate on Friday approved the bill with a vote of 50-48.
It is the first piece of legislation that Obama has enacted since he took office in 2009.
The measure, titled “Relief from the Tax on Certain Individuals with Dependent Children Act of 2017,” will go into effect Jan. 1.
It is part of a broader package of relief from the estate tax, which Obama has pushed for in recent months.
It includes measures to increase funding for Medicaid, expand mental health services and create a new health savings account.
The White House said the new health care legislation will provide health insurance for millions of people and increase access to affordable, quality care.
“I am so proud of this legislation that is finally here, that finally brings relief to families across the country who are suffering as a result of the Affordable Care Act,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.
Republicans had opposed the bill, saying it would impose tax increases on millions of low-income Americans, particularly the working poor.
They said the bill was not targeted at any one group.
Democrats have been critical of the measure, calling it a political attack and saying it will hurt the economy and raise costs for people who need health care the most.
They say the measure does not address the financial hardships many Americans are facing and is not a cost-saving measure.
Republicans have been calling on the Obama administration to repeal the law, arguing that the law is not working for most Americans and will lead to higher taxes.
Obama’s signature health care measure is the latest sign of his push to boost health care access and improve the nation’s health system.
It was also a significant political victory for Republicans, who have controlled the White House since the 2016 elections and have struggled to advance any major legislation on health care since then.
The House approved the measure after Democrats blocked it from consideration for the past three years.
The vote comes amid an uptick in the number of cases of Ebola, the deadliest of the virus, among U.S. patients in the U.N. headquarters.
Obama has made several trips to Africa to address the issue and urge people to stay home.
He announced the first cases in the United States on Friday, a day after an American missionary contracted the virus in Sierra Leone.
The virus has killed more than 10,000 people and infected 2,200 others in West Africa, including 2,879 in the Sierra Leone capital, Freetown.
The outbreak has been fueled by an influx of people fleeing the deadly conflict in neighboring Liberia.
Trump has expressed skepticism about the effectiveness of the health care law, but on Friday he said it was working well.
He said the health law will bring the United Kingdom and other nations to the table to negotiate on their own and that the United Nations has been successful in working with countries that want to join the U,S.-led coalition.
“We will have countries from all over the world join the coalition, but we have been very successful,” Trump said.
The United States has also become the world’s biggest producer of medical supplies and equipment to help fight the virus.
The president’s signature measure, which passed by a wide margin in Congress, will expand access to prescription drugs, including for people with HIV and other conditions.
The plan provides tax credits to help pay for those costs, which the government says will provide about $12 billion over a decade.
The legislation also includes a provision that will allow people to deduct up to $10,000 from their income taxes, and $1,000 for any employer health plan that provides prescription coverage.
The new health bill will help about 20 million people afford their first prescription, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
The legislation also expands Medicaid to cover low- and moderate-income adults and the elderly.
The bill also gives people access to free birth control pills, which cost about $10 per month.
The tax credits for employer plans are available to people making more than $150,000 a year and to those making more that $250,000.
The package of measures is designed to help offset the costs of the ACA, which was enacted by a Republican-led Congress after Republicans won control of the House of Representatives.
Republicans say the health insurance law has helped millions of families.
Democrats, however, have accused Republicans of creating an alternative to the ACA and have argued that millions of workers are still paying for health care.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.