President Barack Obama today defended his wide-ranging health care plan and said he is confident of passing health care reform, but he stopped short of saying that he would veto any plan that does not include the widely pilloried "public 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 at a White House press conference.
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. Right now, I will say that our position is that a public plan makes sense."
Tune in to Diane Sawyer's interview with President Obama on "Good Morning America" Wednesday, June 24, at 7:00 a.m. ET
The public option system has drawn criticism from both Democrats and Republicans, but Obama refused to say whether it was a necessary element in the legislation that he would sign. He said it was "not logical" to think that a public option would drive the private insurance industry into the ground.
"If private insurers say that the marketplace provides the best quality health care; if they tell us that they're offering a good deal, then why is it that the government, which they say can't run anything, suddenly is going to drive them out of business? That's not logical," he said.
Obama also 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, and instead of saying that "no one" will take away any American's health insurance, today he said only that the government would not do so.
ABC News asked how the president could make such a guarantee if the public-run plan was cheaper, thus possibly enticing employers to enroll employees in that plan.
"When I say if you have your plan and you like it, ... or you have a doctor and you like your doctor, that you don't have to change plans, what I'm saying is the government is not going to make you change plans under health reform," the president said.
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."
Today, Obama pinned the possible changes on employers, who may adjust their health care plans due to costs, and maintained that the government will not be the force behind the changes.
"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. "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."