President Barack Obama has signed the $938 billion health care overhaul that guarantees coverage for 32 million uninsured Americans and represents the biggest accomplishment of his presidency.
Obama signed the bill at an elaborate ceremony in the East Room of the White House. He said it sets in motion "desperately needed reforms" sought by generations of Americans and helps lift a "decades-long drag" on the economy.
President Obama says members of Congress took their "lumps" over health care reform -- and he's getting no argument from them. One lawmaker responded, "Yes, we did," after Obama pointed out the political beating that some members are taking on the issue. Obama paid tribute to what he called the "historic leadership and uncommon courage" of the members of Congress who pushed ahead with the measure amid the often heated debate.
The House passed the historic health care reform bill Sunday night by a vote of 219 to 212. The vote was almost along party lines, with no Republicans voting in favor of the bill.
The Democrats needed just 216 votes for the bill to pass. The legislation now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature.
"We will be joining those who established Social Security, Medicare and now, tonight, health care for all Americans," said Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., as the vote neared.
"We have failed to listen to Americans," said Minority Leader John Boehner during a fiery speech on the Senate floor before the vote. "And we failed to reflect the will of our constituents."
For the first time, most Americans will be required to purchase insurance, and face penalties if they refused. Much of the money in the bill is devoted to subsidies to help families at incomes of up to $88,000 a year pay their premiums.
The measure will also usher in a significant expansion of Medicaid, the federal-state health care program for the poor. Coverage would be required for incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level, $29,327 a year for a family of four. Childless adults would be covered for the first time, starting in 2014.
The insurance industry, which spent millions on advertising trying to block the bill, would come under new federal regulation. They would be forbidden from placing lifetime dollar limits on policies, from denying coverage to children because of pre-existing conditions and from canceling policies when a policyholder becomes ill.
Parents would be able to keep children up to age 26 on their family insurance plans, three years longer than is now the case.
A new high-risk pool would offer coverage to uninsured people with medical problems until 2014, when the coverage expansion would go into high gear.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A Democratic lawmaker says a protester stood up in the House gallery, yelled "Kill the bill" and was cheered by Republicans.
Angry demonstrators opposed to the health care bill gathered outside the Capitol on Sunday. Democratic Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts says that one stood up in the House gallery and shouted, "Kill the bill. The people don't want this."
As the man was yelling and ushers tried to escort him out, several Republicans stood up on the House floor and cheered.
Said Frank: "I've never seen this - for the Republicans to stand up and cheer the guy on." Frank called the Republicans "clowns."
The cheering could be heard from outside the chamber.
Disruptions from the gallery are banned.