"If we don't tackle it now in a serious way, not only are you going to see folks like Natoma get in a tougher and tougher spot," he said. "But what you're also going to find is a federal government that can't pay its bills on Medicare and Medicaid."
Obama said once the bill is passed, reforms would start "right away," but he cautioned that fully enacting every new measure will take time.
"These insurance reforms would start right away," the president said. "But getting in place a system that works over time, including making sure we get more primary care physicians, more nurses into the system, working with hospitals and doctors to reduce medical error rates that drive up cost -- all those things are going to be changes that happen year after year over a period of time, but we've got to start now.
"If we don't start now, it's going to be too late," Obama said. "If we don't start now, then it won't be in place three, four, five years from now and then we'll be waiting another decade or another 15 years or another 20 years to actually take on this problem."