The House of Representatives approved on March 20 a bill that will overhaul the United States' health care system and extend coverage to 32 million uninsured Americans, The New York Times reports. The legislation, approved on Christmas Eve, passed the House with a 219 to 212 vote.

According to the article, the bill would require most Americans to have health insurance and would add 16 million people to Medicaid while subsidizing private coverage for low- and middle-income people. The cost to the federal government will be $938 billion during 10 years. In addition, the bill would make it illegal for an insurance company to deny coverage or discontinue coverage based on preexisting conditions, such as HIV/AIDS. The bill also prohibits lifetime caps on how much health care a plan will cover during a person's life, which is of great importance to people living with chronic illnesses.

Reuters reports that the health care reform bill, which includes about $455 billion in spending cuts for Medicare and other federal programs during the next decade, will improve the Medicare prescription drug program. The bill would close the Medicare “doughnut hole,” or coverage gap, by 2020, which would make prescription medications more affordable for senior citizens.

In addition, The Advocate reports, the bill prevents HIV-positive Medicare recipients who receive treatment through their state AIDS drug assistance program (ADAP) from being subject to other prescription drug costs.

Many employers would be required to offer coverage to employees; those that don't would suffer a penalty. Each state would set up a marketplace where consumers without coverage could shop for plans meeting federal standards.

“We pushed back on the undue influence of special interests,” Obama said during a celebration of the House's vote. “We didn't give in to mistrust or to cynicism or to fear. Instead, we proved that we are still a people capable of doing big things.”

“This isn't radical reform,” he added, “but it is major reform.”

Obama intends to sign the bill into law on Tuesday, March 23, in a ceremony on the White House South Lawn.