President Barack Obama said he is cautiously optimistic that the stalled healthcare bill will be passed in the Senate by the end of the year.

The healthcare reform bill includes a government-run insurance plan known as a public option and allowing people aged 55 to 64 to enroll in Medicare programmes for the elderly and disabled.

Critics of the bill say the public option will put private insurance companies out of business and burden taxpayers with the cost of caring for millions of people.

Once passed, the Senate version of the bill would have to be reconciled with the healthcare bill passed by the House of Representatives.