Healthcare reform would extend coverage to more Americans without imperiling insurance companies' profits, Vice President Joe Biden stressed in a speech on Tuesday.

Biden, who devoted most of his address before the National Association of Insurance Commissioners to the business merits of healthcare, also sounded a highly personal note, telling the insurance workers in attendance their daily experiences demonstrate why healthcare reform is so imminent.

"You're stuck in the middle of it all. You read the letters. You see the tears," Biden said. "I'll bet you if I went around the room of insurance commissioners here, and ask you just to give me 10 stories... it would be a literal saga. Well, it's happening all across America."

Biden's address on Tuesday arrives at a crucial juncture in the healthcare debate. As he spoke, Senate lawmakers on the Finance Committee began debate on the more than 500 amendments to Chairman Max Baucus' (D-Mont.) latest healthcare proposal. And House lawmakers affirmed their steadfastness on the public option, which is absent from all Senate negotiations.

Biden mentioned neither the markup process nor the public option in his speech, but he did reiterate the White House's general line on the need for insurance reform sooner rather than later.

"I want insurance companies to make money. I want insurance companies to be able to provide a return on their investment and their stockholders to benefit," the vice president added. "But I also want them held accountable. I want to restore stability in our health care system. And there are basic ground rules we need right now."