Obama would not consider what it could mean for the rest of his domestic agenda if he does not sign health care legislation this year. Despite recent partisan setbacks on Capitol Hill, the president said he is confident a solution can be achieved.
"We're dealing here in Washington with an enormous federal deficit and debt that is largely driven by health care costs. So whether it's families, business or government, we know that we're going to have to reform this system," he said.
At a White House press conference on Tuesday, Obama seemed to back off from his promise that people who like their health care plans will be able to keep them under his plan for reform.
Instead of saying that "no one" will take away any American's health insurance, Obama said only that the government would not do so, but pinned the possible changes on employers, who may adjust their health care plans due to costs.
"I can guarantee you that there's the possibility for a whole lot of Americans out there that they're not going to end up having the same health care they have," he said Tuesday. "Because what's going to happen is, as costs keep on going up, employers are going to start making decisions: 'We've got to raise premiums on our employees. In some cases, we can't provide health insurance at all.'"
This was a shift from what the president said just last week, when he told a gathering of the nation's doctors, "If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health care plan, you'll be able to keep your health care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what."
When pressed by Sawyer on that change in language, Obama again pointed the finger at employers.
"That's the case whether we pass health care or not. The fact is that right now, all across the country, people are losing their health care. Every day," he said.
He said that while Congress cannot pass a law forbidding employers from making changes to their company health care plan, he can say that the government or an employer will not force an individual into the controversial "public option."
"If you're happy with it, and your employer's happy with it, keep it," he said. "If your employer is not providing you the health care that you need, then we're going to give you a set of options to make sure that you continue to have health care."
At his Tuesday press conference, Obama defended his wide-ranging health care plan but stopped short of saying that he would veto any plan that does not include the public health insurance option he has been pushing.
"We have not drawn lines in the sand, other than that reform has to control costs and that it has to provide relief to people who don't have health insurance or are under-insured," the president said.
Pressed on the question of whether a public plan is non-negotiable, the president said that it was not, at least not yet.
"You know, those are the broad parameters that we've discussed. There are a whole host of other issues where ultimately I may have a strong opinion, and I will express those to members of Congress as this is shaping up. It's too early to say that," he said. "Right now, I will say that our position is that a public plan makes sense."