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A jubilant President Obama signed the health care bill into law today, calling its massive expansion of insurance coverage "reforms that generations of Americans have fought for and marched for and hungered to see."
"Today, after almost a century of trying -- today, after over a year of debate -- today, after all the votes have been tallied, health insurance reform becomes law in the United States of America," Obama said at a White House ceremony packed with ecstatic supporters.
The law expands health insurance coverage for some 32 million Americans, in part by preventing insurance companies from denying coverage to people who are sick or have pre-existing conditions.
The new law provides subsidies for some Americans to purchase insurance.
While some aspects of the bill won't go into effect for years, Obama stressed that a "host of desperately needed reforms will take effect right away, this year,"Â particularly the restrictions on insurance companies.
He also spoke of specific individuals who inspired his push for health care -- including his mother, "who argued with insurance companies, even as she battled cancer in her final days."
Obama signed the bill in the East Room, before a crowd that included all 219 House members who voted for final passage of the bill on Sunday. Also in attendance: Vicki Kennedy, the widow of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., a long-time proponent of a national health care plan.
Later this morning, Obama delivers another health care speech to supporters gathered at the Interior Department.
The president used and handed out 20 ceremonial pens during the signing ceremony that had a party-like atmosphere. Before the president's remarks, smiling members of Democrats snapped pictures of each other some posing in front of the presidential podium.
Before the signing, members shouted out an Obama campaign chant: "Fired up! Ready to Go! Fired up! Ready to Go!"
"Mr. President, I think we've got a happy room here," said Vice President Joe Biden in introducing Obama.
The president and his aides now must sell the plan to Americans who are skeptical of the health care plan. The effort includes a speech Thursday in Iowa City, Iowa.
The president soon moves to the Interior Department to speak before a bunch of supporters.
Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., is calling for repeal of the bill. He said the right approach would be allowing insurance companies to sell policies across state lines, andÂ restricting jury awards in medical malpractice lawsuits. "Government bureaucrats will now dictate the terms of our health care system," DeMint wrote in an op-ed for USA TODAY.
Obama expressed confidence in the bill, saying "the overheated rhetoric" of the health care debate will be overtaken by "the reality of reform." He added that the changes in the law must be put in place carefully.
"We need to get this right," Obama said.