Health care reform passed

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Audio Transcript:

DAVID BARON: I'm David Baron. This is The World. President Obama plans to sign the health care overhaul bill tomorrow. Mr. Obama and Congressional Democrats are hailing last night's passage of the bill as a historic moment. Republicans are vowing to keep the health care battle going into the fall elections. The measure that President Obama is getting ready to sign expand coverage to millions of uninsured Americans. It could also change the way U.S. health care compares with other health systems internationally. Here's more from The World's Jeb Sharp.

JEB SHARP: The domestic debate over health care is clearly not over, but internationally passage of the legislation puts the United States much more in line with other industrialized countries. Zach Cooper is a health economist at the London School of Economics.

ZACH COOPER: I a global context the U.S. has always been an outlier. They've looked at us and they've never understood how we could have this many people who weren't guaranteed health care. This puts us into the fold with every other developed country where we view health care as a right, that every person in America, every American citizen should be guaranteed access to health care.

SHARP: Cooper points out that the impetus for reform is not limited to human rights though. It's also about the economy and keeping the U.S. competitive in the global marketplace.

COOPER: I think one of the very clear reasons that some of the U.S. auto manufacturers are having trouble is because health care costs in the U.S. are so much more expensive. Part of the reason they're more expensive is because we've had a patchwork system that has been very, very good in places, but very, very bad in others. This hopefully will harmonize that system, lower costs and that will be better for everyone.

SHARP: Cooper studies different health care systems around the world in order to glean what works and what doesn't. He thinks the health care bill is a good one and he points out that it guarantees health care for 32 million people who otherwise wouldn't have it. But T.R. Reid, the author of "The Healing of America" has also studied international systems and he is much less optimistic.

T. R. REID: Well in five years when this bill kicks in we'll be in much better shape, but it's still going to leave about 20 millions Americans uninsured and if I had gone to another rich country and found five or six percent of the people uninsured I would not have called that country a success. All the other rich countries cover everybody.

SHARP: Reid says the U.S. is still not going to cover everyone and its going to retain a complicated, overlapping and expensive system. He says critics of universal coverage should realize that other countries are managing to cover everyone without necessarily using the sort of single payer system many Americans dislike so much.

REID: It's not all socialized medicine, that's an important point. In some countries government does provide the health care, but a lot of countries, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Japan, Switzerland, cover everybody with private docs, private hospitals and private insurance. So a crucial point is they all have decided to cover everybody. If you do that, you save lives, you save money.

STEVE MORGAN: There's no question that people out there will think you know, this could have been a better plan or it's not a perfect plan, but there are some of us, and I would be amongst that group who believe that it's probably a step in the right direction.

SHARP: That's Steve Morgan, a professor at the Center for Health Services and Policy Research at the University of British Columbia in Canada. He says don't forget Canadians had a tough debate about health care too many decades ago.

MORGAN: Canadians weren't sure about a universal health insurance system. Canadians weren't convinced that that was going to be the right thing for the country. However, if you ask a Canadian today, tell us what defines you as a Canadian other than perhaps mentioning something about hockey, it's almost certain that they'll mention something about their health care system. And I hope as this policy unfolds to Americans that you'll find that it becomes part of the social fabric of America and that it sort of becomes a statement of a kind of society that Americans wish to live in.

SHARP: For now, though, despite the passage of this historic legislation Americans remain mightily divided on the merits of health care reform. For The World, I'm Jeb Sharp.