WASHINGTON (CN) - In an historic vote, senators passed the contentious health care bill 60-39 Thursday morning, voting strictly along party lines. The bill must now be merged with the House version, where the rift over abortion funding will be addressed. "If passed, this will be the most important piece of social policy since the Social Security Act in the 1930s, and the most important reform of our health care system since Medicare passed in the 1960s," said President Obama from the White House.
The Senate bill requires that women not buy abortion coverage with subsidized funds, but allows them to buy separate, non-subsidized abortion coverage.
The House version, which passed 220-215 last month, is stricter on abortion funding and would bar women who receive government health care subsidies from purchasing abortion coverage.
The bills are otherwise broadly similar. Both would require most Americans to have health insurance, make large businesses provide coverage to their workers, and increase government subsidies for health care.
Both would bar insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions, charging higher premiums based on health or gender, and dropping a person's coverage once he gets sick.
The Senate bill would also require that insurance companies spend at least 80 percent of premiums on medical care, instead of other costs like overhead.
The Senate bill is largely more moderate than the bill passed out of the House two weeks ago. The $871 billion Senate bill is less than the $1 trillion House bill and the bill before the Senate would extend coverage to 94 percent of the population, smaller than the House's 96 percent.
But the Senate bill outdoes the House bill in deficit reduction by cutting the deficit by $130 billion over the course of ten years, more than the $104 billion cut predicted under the House bill. The reductions are largely driven by tax increases.
Kentucky Republican Jim Bunning did not vote.
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