updated 11/30/2009 2:52:49 PM ET 2009-11-30T19:52:49

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says lawmakers will work weekends to complete a sweeping health care bill because "nothing can be more important than this."

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Senate debate is getting under way Monday afternoon on President Barack Obama's health care overhaul. Reid, D-Nev., said the nation's health care system has created an economic crisis for thousands of Americans and Congress needs to address the problem.

Reid said the Senate will work Saturdays and Sundays in December. He said: "There's not an issue more important than finishing this legislation."

Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said the bill would spend trillions of dollars that the country can't afford. He said the measure was "out of touch with the American people."

Congressional budget experts say the health care bill on the Senate floor would lower the average price of insurance premiums if it passes, although millions would face higher costs.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the legislation would raise premiums on non-group policies by an average of 10 percent to 13 percent before figuring in the federal subsidies that are designed to defray the cost of coverage. Once the government aid is included in the calculations, average premiums would be as much as 59 percent lower than is now the case.

The CBO says the bill would have a far smaller impact on the cost of small group and large group insurance.

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