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Controversial healthcare vote is under way in US

Published 21/12/2009

In the early hours of this morning, the US Senate started voting on a sweeping reform of the nation's healthcare system, bringing coverage within reach of 30 million Americans who have no medical insurance and achieving something that has eluded US presidents for more than a generation.

And yet what Barack Obama might have imagined would be a moment of jubilation for his own party, comes with the acrid taste of compromise and backstairs deal-making.

After months of haggling, and blanket opposition from Republicans, Democrat leaders first threw out the White House's planned “public option”. The fall-back position, of a private sector solution that creates national “insurance exchanges” where the uninsured can buy subsidised health plans, comes with a string of restrictions.

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