By 2014, most Americans would be required to purchase health insurance or face penalties. Small businesses and the uninsured would have the option of shopping for coverage in health insurance exchanges, a marketplace in which people could shop for and compare insurance plans. Those exchanges would be implemented in 2014. The bill greatly expands Medicaid and subsidies to the poor. Insurance companies would not be able to place lifetime caps or deny coverage to patients based on pre-existing conditions.
"I think American people are going to be happy to know that when they spend their health care dollar it's going to go to medical expenditures not advertising, not CEO compensation," Kennedy said.
Obama watched the health care vote Sunday in the White House's Roosevelt Room with Vice President Joe Biden, chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel and some 40 staffers. Afterward, he hailed the bill as a victory for the American people.
"This is what change looks like," the president said in a brief speech after the House vote.
"We proved that we are still a people capable of doing big things," he said. "We proved that this government -- a government of the people and by the people -- still works for the people.
After the president spoke to the nation, he joined dozens of staffers where he toasted them with champagne and club soda for their accomplishment.
"This is what we came here to do," he told them.
The president will likely sign the bill in a ceremony tomorrow, but the battle isn't yet over. The Senate still needs to pass "fixes" to the bill negotiated with the House and that process could take weeks if not months.
On Capitol Hill, Democratic leaders did a victory lap event and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hailed the bill as a historic achievement.
"It is with great pride and great humility that we undertook this great act of patriotism that occurred on the floor of the house," said Pelosi, D-Calif.
"We will be joining those who established Social Security, Medicare and now, tonight, health care for all Americans," Pelosi said.
Democrats count the health care bill among such landmark legislation as Social Security and even the Civil Rights Act. The one difference, however, is that all those major legislations had bipartisan support.
The vote was certain after the House Democratic leadership finalized a deal Sunday afternoon with anti-abortion Democrats to vote for the Senate-passed health care bill in exchange for an executive order from Obama affirming no federal funding for elective abortion.
Democrats chanted "Yes, We Can" moments before the vote was clinched.
But it was not easy getting there. Republicans opposed the bill until the very end. Not one voted for the controversial legislation.
"Can you say it was done openly, with transparency and accountability -- without backroom deals, struck behind closed doors, hidden from the people?" questioned House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio. "Hell no, you can't."
The floor debate was raucous as hecklers from the House gallery interrupted the debate several times. At one point, a lawmaker from the Republican side yelled "baby killer," referring to the anti-abortion controversy.