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17 Apr, 2015 01:32

Obama signs largest healthcare bill since Obamacare into law

Obama signs largest healthcare bill since Obamacare into law

President Barack Obama has signed into law the largest healthcare bill since the Affordable Care Act was passed five years ago. It fixes the way Medicare doctors are reimbursed, fills in a funding gap and extends a popular children’s insurance program.

Known as the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015, the $214 billion bill marked a rare moment of bipartisanship in Congress, where Democrats and Republicans combined to overwhelmingly send it to the president’s desk.

The bill establishes a new way to pay doctors who treat Medicare patients, revising a flawed and unpopular 1997 law that aimed to cut reimbursements but ended up scheduling large enough reductions that many physicians threatened to leave the program.

READ MORE: Obamacare drops number of uninsured to lowest level in 15 years – CDC

As a result, Congress has voted to keep the cuts from taking place 17 separate times since 2002. If this bill had not passed or lawmakers had otherwise not blocked the cuts, a 21 percent pay drop was scheduled to take place this month.

“It encourages us to continue to make the health care system smarter without denying service. As a consequence, it's going to be good for people who use Medicare. It's going to be good for our seniors. Ultimately it's going to be good for all of us,” Obama said, as quoted by CBS News.

Obama added that the new law will pay doctors for the quality of care they give.

“It starts encouraging payments based on quality, not the number of tests that are provided or the number of procedures that are applied but whether or not people actually start feeling better,” Obama said, according to the Associated Press.

The bill also requires wealthier Medicare beneficiaries to pay higher premiums, though it will still add $141 billion to the deficit.

Separately, the bill renews the Children’s Health Insurance Program for another two years. This program covered almost 6 million children as of June 2013, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, and covers various needs such as routine checkups, immunizations, prescriptions and more.