Obama to sign historic health-care bill today; celebrate with allies

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama's yearlong health care overhaul drama featured dozens of speeches, contentious debate and a televised summit with lawmakers before a divided Congress passed the bill. An elaborate White House signing ceremony kicks off the next act: selling the sweeping changes to a skeptical public.

House and Senate Democrats who backed the bill as well as lesser-known people whose health care struggles have touched Obama were expected to join him today for the ceremony in the East Room. Afterward, Obama and much of that audience were heading to the Interior Department for an even larger celebration.

Act II begins Thursday when Obama visits Iowa City, Iowa, where as a presidential candidate he announced his health-care plan in May 2007, to talk about how it will help lower health-care costs for small businesses and families.

The House late Sunday voted 219-212 — no Republicans voted in favor — to send the 10-year, $938 billion bill to Obama.

The measure, which the Senate passed in December, eventually will extend coverage to 32 million uninsured Americans, reduce federal budget deficits and ban such insurance company practices as denying coverage to people with existing medical problems.

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