19 Mar 2010

Obama postpones Asia trip to push health bill

6:13 pm on 19 March 2010

United States president Barack Obama has postponed his trip to Australia and Indonesia to focus on his health reform bill.

Mr Obama had already delayed his trip by three days and cut short the Australian leg to 24 hours.

The US House of Representatives is due to vote on Sunday on the bill overhauling the US health care system - President Obama's top domestic priority.

Mr Obama has said the bill represents the most significant effort to reduce the deficit since the 1990s.

The White House says Mr Obama now plans to visit Australia and Indonesia in June.

Health plan 'will reduce deficit'

The US Congressional Budget Office says the final version of the Democrats' healthcare plan would cut the federal deficit by $US138 billion over 10 years, the BBC reports.

The non-partisan body said the proposed legislation would cost about $US940 billion over a decade.

The reforms would provide insurance to some 30 million Americans who currently lack it, increasing coverage through tax credits for the middle class and expanding of the Medicaid programme for the poor.

If approved, they would represent the biggest change in the US healthcare system since the creation in the 1960s of Medicare, the government-run scheme for Americans aged 65 or over.