Washington (CNN) — President Obama won a historic victory in the struggle for health care reform Sunday as the House of Representatives passed a sweeping bill overhauling the American medical system.
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, which cleared the Senate in December, will now go to Obama’s desk to be signed into law. It constitutes the biggest expansion of federal health care guarantees since the enactment of Medicare and Medicaid over four decades ago.
A separate compromise package of changes expanding the reach of the measure was also set to be taken up by the House. If approved, it will advance to the Senate.
The overall $940 billion plan is projected to extend insurance coverage to roughly 32 million additional Americans. It represents a significant step towards 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.