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Congress poised to approve overhaul of Medicare health care plan for elderly

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WASHINGTON, June 26 (AFP) - Congress on Thursday was poised to approve a massive overhaul of Medicare, the health care plan for elderly US citizens -- the first revamping the program has had in 40 years.

Both the House and Senate have scheduled votes on separate major reform legislation that would significantly expand retirees' access to prescription drugs, while reducing drug costs for many Medicare recipients.

The vote, which was expected to pass easily in both chambers of the US legislature, was also expected provide a major victory to US President George W. Bush.

The legislation makes it easier for the White House to claim in the upcoming reelection campaign that he has not forsaken his domestic social agenda while tackling international terrorism in Afghanistan, Iraq and other international hot spots.

The prescription-drug benefits package affects some 40 million elderly people in the Medicare program, who comprise one of the most coveted bloc of US voters.

A number of key Democratics have agreed to cross over to support the Republican-drafted reform plan, virtually ensuring passage of the landmark legislation late Thursday or in the early hours Friday.

Bush has said he hopes to sign the legislation into law by July 4, the US Independcence Day holiday.



COPYRIGHT 2003 Agence France-Presse. All rights reserved.

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