WASHINGTON, Dec. 24 (UPI) -- The U.S. Senate voted 60-39 Thursday to approve a landmark 10-year, $871 billion healthcare bill to help cover 31 million uninsured Americans.
The proposal, passed in the first Christmas Eve session in the Senate in more than five decades, also would begin a far-reaching overhaul of Medicare and the insurance market.
The 7 a.m. vote was the last in a string of votes capping months of infighting and procedural delays. The measure includes federal subsidies to help low- and middle-income people buy health insurance as well as a raft of new taxes to finance the venture.
It brings Democrats closer than ever to realizing their 70-year-old goal of universal health coverage, The Washington Post said.
For the first time, most Americans would be required to obtain health insurance, through their employer or new, government-regulated exchanges.
Federal subsidies would be available for those who cannot afford insurance plans. Medicaid would be vastly expanded to reach millions of low-income children and adults.
Difficult issues still must be resolved in final negotiations with the House, which has passed more liberal health-care reform legislation. While this could take months, Democrats believe President Obama will sign a bill into law in early 2010.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid declared, "We stand on the doorstep of history."