[JURIST] US President Barack Obama on Tuesday signed into law [transcript of remarks] the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act [HR 4872 materials], which represents a group of amendments to the recently approved health care legislation [JURIST news archive] and also provides changes to the administration of the federal student loan program. The Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act [HR 3221 materials], a rider attached to the main bill, will remove banks and private lenders as providers for federal student loans and place that responsibility with the government. The health care amendments addressed concerns in the original bill raised by Republicans, including provisions to help uninsured Americans pay for coverage, concerns over the effects to Medicare, and lowering the penalty for not buying insurance. In his remarks, Obama lauded the changes made to the student loan program and the final passage of health care reform:
[T]he health insurance reform bill I signed won't fix every problem in our health care system in one fell swoop. But it does represent some of the toughest insurance reforms in history. It represents a major step forward towards giving Americans with insurance – and those without – a sense of security when it comes to their health care. It enshrines the principle that when you get sick, you've got a society there, a community, that is going to help you get back on your feet.
For a long time, our student loan system has worked for banks and financial institutions. Today, we're finally making our student loan system work for students and our families. But we're also doing something more. From the moment I was sworn into office, I've spoken about the urgent need for us to lay a new foundation for our economy and for our future. And two pillars of that foundation are health care and education, and each has long suffered from problems that we chose to kick down the road.
Republicans have criticized both bills [NYT report] as harmful to the economy.
Obama signed the original health care bill into law last week after it was passed by the House [JURIST reports] by a vote of 219 – 212. Following that, he signed an executive order [text; JURIST report] continuing a prohibition on the use of federal funds for abortion [JURIST news archive] except in cases of rape or incest or where a woman's life would be endangered, as part of a compromise with conservative Democrats. The same day that the original bill was signed into law, the attorneys general for 13 states filed suit in federal court challenging the constitutionality of the new law [JURIST report].