Obama expressed confidence that health care reform legislation will be passed this year, even as Republicans remain wary of the idea of a "public option" and say they would've liked to hear more specifics from the president on the costs and benefits of his health care reform proposals.
The controversial idea of a government-run insurance "public option" remains a thorny point of contention between Democrats and Republicans. GOP leaders say they were disappointed the president didn't abandon the idea altogether.
"Unfortunately, what the American people got wasn't a new health care plan. It was just another lecture. He had a chance to really put the government-run plan to bed, but unfortunately he didn't do it," House Republican leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said.
Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La., a retired cardiothoracic surgeon who delivered the formal Republican response to the president's speech, rapped Obama for not taking the proposal off the table.
"Most Americans wanted to hear the president tell [House] Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi, [Senate] Majority Leader [Harry] Reid and the rest of Congress that it's time to start over on a common-sense, bipartisan plan focused on lowering the cost of health care while improving quality," he said.
Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley -- part of the so-called "Gang of Six" senators aiming to come up with a bipartisan solution -- said the president "passed up a big opportunity" by not ruling out a public option, which he and his colleagues argue would hurt the private insurance industry. Even Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, who proposed the idea of a "trigger" mechanism for government insurance -- suggested last night by Obama -- said she was disappointed the president didn't drop the idea altogether.
"I don't think necessarily last night we heard in the House what we need to move forward on this idea of a public option," Cantor told "Good Morning America's" Robin Roberts. "I think it's very important that we dismiss this notion of a government option. I think if we listen to the American people ... the fear surrounds this notion that somehow the government will replace the health care system we know in this country."
In his speech, Obama expressed his support for a government-run insurance option as a way to stimulate competition, but he did not threaten to veto any legislation that does not contain that option and stressed that the public option is just one aspect of his overall plan.
"To my progressive friends, I would remind you that for decades, the driving idea behind reform has been to end insurance company abuses and make coverage affordable for those without it," he said. "The public option is only a means to that end -- and we should remain open to other ideas that accomplish our ultimate goal. And to my Republican friends, I say that rather than making wild claims about a government takeover of health care, we should work together to address any legitimate concerns you may have."