Landmark health care overhaul bill heads to Obama’s desk to be signed on Tuesday

President Obama will sign a landmark $875 billion health care reform bill into law at the White House on Tuesday, according to two Democratic officials familiar with the planning.


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The bill passed the House of Representatives late Sunday night. It was approved by the Senate in December.

A separate package of changes passed by the House on Sunday still needs to be approved by the Senate. The officials noted that the Senate cannot begin debate on the package before Obama signs the underlying bill into law.

The bill passed in a 219-212 vote after more than a year of bitter partisan debate. All 178 Republicans opposed it, along with 34 Democrats.

The measure constitutes the biggest expansion of federal health care guarantees since Medicare and Medicaid were enacted more than four decades ago.

The overall $940 billion plan is projected to extend insurance coverage to roughly 32 million Americans who don’t have it now. It represents a significant step toward the goal of universal coverage sought by every Democratic president since Harry Truman.

Most Americans will now be required 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.

The compromise package would add to the bill’s total cost partly by expanding insurance subsidies for middle- and lower-income families. The measure would scale back the bill’s taxes on expensive insurance plans.

Numerous House members insisted they would not vote for the Senate bill without a clear promise that senators would approve the changes.

"This is what change looks like," Obama said shortly after the votes. The passage of health care reform is "not a victory for any one party. … It’s a victory for the American people and it’s a victory for common sense."

The president said successful reform proves Americans "are still a people capable of doing big things."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — who tried and failed during her husband’s presidential administration to bring about sweeping health care reform — celebrated the passage of the bill.

"If you ever doubt the resolve of President Obama to stay with a job, look at what we got done for the United States last night when it came to passing quality affordable health care for everyone," Clinton said Monday.

The rare Sunday votes occurred after a long weekend of intense negotiations among the White House, House leaders and individual Congress members. Obama traveled to Capitol Hill on Saturday to make a last-minute plea to the House Democratic caucus. He spent much of the past week trying to personally persuade dozens of members to vote for the bill.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, worked with administration officials to defuse a potential rebellion among socially conservative Democrats concerned that the bill wouldn’t do enough to prevent taxpayer-funded abortions.

She also brokered a last-minute deal among several Democrats worried about disparities in Medicare funding for individual states.

Republicans failed to stop the Democratic health care initiative, despite using virtually every weapon in their legislative arsenal. GOP leaders have repeatedly warned the plan will lead to a government takeover of America’s private employer-based health care system.

They have also argued it will lead to higher premiums and taxes while imposing harsh Medicare cuts and doing little to control spiraling medical costs.