WASHINGTON, Dec. 24 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday commended the passage of a landmark healthcare reform bill in the Senate earlier in the morning, saying the country is "incredibly close to making health insurance reform a reality."
Calling the vote "historic," Obama said at the White House that the legislation "brings us toward the end of a nearly century-long struggle to reform America's healthcare system."
"With passage of reform bills in both the House and the Senate, we are now finally poised to deliver on the promise of real, meaningful health insurance reform that will bring additional security and stability to the American people."
He said the legislation would hold the insurance industry accountable while workers will not 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 also strengthen Medicare -- the health insurance program for the elderly and disabled -- and extend the life of the program, making healthcare insurance coverage affordable for over 30 million Americans who do not have it, said Obama.
It will help reduce national deficit by as much as 132 billion U.S. dollars over the next decade, he claimed.
After its passage, the bill would still have to be reconciled with a more expansive bill passed by the House of Representatives before being sent to Obama for signature, which will not happen until late next month.
Obama acknowledged the challenge. "We now have to take up the last and most important step and reach an agreement on a final reform bill that I can sign into law. And I look forward to working with members of Congress in both chambers over the coming weeks to do exactly that," he said.
Health care reform has been the top priority on Obama's domestic agenda. But finalizing the details of the legislation has been a lengthy and complex process.