Rome

Balduzzi 'absolutely satisfied' with health-care bill

Cabinet approves pared-down measure, soft-drink ban out

Balduzzi 'absolutely satisfied' with health-care bill

(ANSA) - Rome, September 6 - Italian Health Minister Renato Balduzzi said Thursday he was "absolutely satisfied" with the government's decision late Wednesday to approve a softened health-care bill. "Some of the measures go into effect immediately, while others require more discussion," he said of the bill, which now goes before parliament. "We are open to debate". The bill, which ranges from increasing medical access to changes to school lunches, was sharply opposed by regional governments, labor unions and lobbies representing gambling, tobacco and beverages. Pared down from 27 original articles to 16, the bill aims to create a network of 24-hour clinics that would increase access to general physicians while cutting overhead costs. Measures also include distancing gambling machines from schools, places of worship and residences for the elderly by at least 200 meters. The bill aims to make the process of nominating hospital directors more transparent. A controversial tax on soft drinks was replaced with measures pushing manufacturers to make 20% of the beverage with fruit, and unpasteurized raw milk and fish will be banned from school cafeterias. A minimum 250-euro fine will be issued for selling tobacco to minors and strict limits are to be put on advertising related products. Concerns about the constitutionality of some measures led to their removal from the bill, said government sources who admitted "the scope of the measures" was less than initially expected.

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