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Top issues: Health care

  • GOP targets health care reform law in Election Day 2010 campaigns
  • Republican House minority leader: Democrats have betrayed public's trust
  • Democrats hailed law as a historic act that will help insure millions of Americans
  • The issue of federally funded abortions nearly derailed the bill

(CNN) -- Sure, Democrats in Congress passed a sweeping health care reform bill, and President Obama signed it into law, but that by no means ends the issue for Election Day 2010.

Quite the opposite. With zero support for the $940 billion measure from both House and Senate Republicans, GOP leaders wasted no time using the health care law as an issue to hammer Democrats leading up to November 2.

Grass-roots Tea Party activists seized on the massive 2,700-page bill as a prime example of excessive government spending.

Republicans repeatedly warned that the plan will lead to a government takeover of America's private employer-based health care system. They also argued that it will lead to higher premiums and taxes while imposing harsh Medicare cuts and doing little to control spiraling medical costs.

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Supporters countered that most consumers favor health care reform and that something must be done to protect an estimated 87 million uninsured Americans.

January's surprise Senate victory in Massachusetts by Tea Party-backed Republican Scott Brown struck a near-death blow to the bill. Brown's election ended Democrats' Senate supermajority, forcing supporters of the measure to craft unusual parliamentary strategy to win passage -- first in the House and then in the Senate.

After the measure became law and a "fixes" bill was passed along with it, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, vowed to "repeal and replace" the law if his party takes control of the House and Senate on Election Day.

Minutes after Obama signed the bill, attorneys general representing 13 states filed suit in a federal court in Pensacola, Florida. The complaint called the legislation an "unprecedented encroachment on the sovereignty of the states" and asked a judge to block its enforcement.

States behind the suit were Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Washington. Virginia filed a similar suit separately.

McConnell's House counterpart, Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, argued that Democratic leaders had betrayed the trust of the public by pushing ahead with a bill that lacks broad public support.

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But a March CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll taken shortly after the bill became law suggested that support was evenly divided. When asked whether Congress should repeal it and replace it with new proposals, 47 percent of respondents said yes, and 50 percent said no.

Phased in over 10 years, the law requires most Americans to have health insurance or pay a fine. Larger employers will be required to provide coverage or risk financial penalties.

Total individual out-of-pocket expenses will be capped, and insurers will be barred from denying coverage based on gender or pre-existing conditions. An estimated 32 million additional Americans will be covered as a result of the new law.

How the health care law affects real people

Several issues rose and fell to divide Congress during the grueling eight-month fight to hammer out the legislation, including whether to include a government-run public health insurance option. Another fight across the aisle concerned "budget reconciliation," a parliamentary procedure that would have allowed a vote in the Senate and circumvented a GOP filibuster.

At the 11th hour, the abortion issue nearly derailed the bill. Anti-abortion Democrats said the legislation would allow federal funding for abortions beyond the current limits of cases of rape or incest, or if the woman's life is in danger.

Obama promised to sign an executive order ensuring that existing limits on the federal funding of abortion remain in place, and the Democrats switched their votes to "yes" on the bill.

Democrats fought accusations that they weren't including the GOP in their creation of the bill. Obama said he would consider several Republican ideas. But McConnell said the ideas Obama considered were little more than a few items "inadequately addressed."

McConnell called for Congress to re-start deliberations from scratch. "If the majority manages to jam this [bill] through ... it will be the issue in every single race in America this fall," he promised.

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