WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama on Thursday called the Senate's passage of the health care bill "the most important piece of social legislation since the Social Security Act passed in the 1930s and the most important reform of our health care system since Medicare passed in the 1960s."

"In a historic vote that took place this morning," Obama said in a brief speech, "members of the Senate joined their colleagues in the House of Representatives to pass a landmark health insurance reform package."

Obama said the bill "brings us toward the end of a nearly century-long struggle to reform America's health care system," and invoked President Theodore Roosevelt's initial calling for universal health care in 1912.

"Seven presidents, Democrats and Republicans alike, have taken up the cause of reform," he continued. "We are finally poised to deliver on the promise of real meaningful health insurance reform that will bring additional security and stability to the American people," Obama said.

Obama took some swipes at insurance companies, saying the bill "includes the toughest measures ever taken to hold the insurance industry accountable." He said private insurers will no longer be able to drop sick people from coverage or deny care on the basis of pre-existing conditions.

"Time and time again such efforts have been blocked by special interest lobbyists who have perpetuated a status quo that works better for the insurance industry than it does for the American people," Obama said.

"Workers won't have to worry about losing coverage if they lose or change jobs. Families will save on their premiums. Businesses that would see their costs rise if we do not act will save money now, and they will save money in the future. This bill will strengthen Medicare, and will extend the life of the program. It will make coverage affordable for over 30 million Americans who do not have it."

Obama added that the bill will substantially reduce the deficit in the coming decade, a projection also made by the Congressional Budget Office.

The Senate legislation now proceeds to conference committee where it will be merged with the House bill.

This video is from MSNBC, broadcast Dec. 24, 2009.

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