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Congress sends Obama final measure in health care bill

WASHINGTON - Congressional Democrats sent the final piece of landmark health care legislation to President Barack Obama Friday before heading home to face a skeptical public.

The White House said Obama would sign the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 at Northern Virginia Community College, just outside Washington, on Tuesday.

"This makes a tremendous difference in the lives of Americans," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said at a Capitol Hill ceremony. The House GOP leader, Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, who bitterly opposed the overhaul to the end, called it a "grim moment for millions."

The last legislative chapter in the wrenching debate came Thursday night when the Democratic-controlled House passed, for the second time, a package of fixes to the bill that Obama had signed two days earlier. The measure includes better benefits for older people and low-income and middle-class families.

Taken together, the two bills extend coverage to 32 million uninsured Americans and aim to crack down on unpopular insurance industry practices, such as denying coverage for people with medical conditions, and to reduce federal deficits by an estimated $143 billion over a decade.

Most Americans would be required to buy insurance for the first time or face penalties if they refuse.

Also Friday, AT&T Inc. said it will take a $1 billion noncash accounting charge in the first quarter because of the health care overhaul and may cut benefits it offers to current and retired workers.

The charge is the largest disclosed so far.


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