Sturm said the doctor originally balked at giving her 99-year-old mother a pacemaker because it would cost Medicare $30,000. But Sturm argued the pacemaker saved the taxpayers money by keeping her mother out of the hospital for lengthy alternative therapy.
The president said it's this kind of cost weighing that health care reform should focus on.
"If we've got experts who are looking at this and they are advising doctors across the board that the pacemakers are saving money," he said.
Such studies, known as "comparative effectiveness" touch on an important issue, according to many Republicans, particularly Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, a practicing doctor. He sees a government hand in determining the best practices for health care leading to the rationing of care to what the government thinks is best and not what doctors want for their patients.
Coburn has tried to change a reform proposal being considered in the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee to ban such comparative effectiveness research. The issue snarled that bill in committee earlier this week.
Obama said that a public option for health care won't drive private insurers out of business -- that it will "keep private insurers honest."
Private insurers, he said, should be able to compete with "just one other option," as long as the public alternative is subjected to the same fees and regulations as private insurers.
"We're not talking about an unlevel playing field; we're talking about a level playing field," the president said.
But many of the president's Republican critics argue that a public plan by definition would present an unlevel playing field. The public entity wouldn't have to make a profit, and would be run by the same government bodies that regulate the industry.
"It's like putting an elephant in the room with some mice and saying, 'OK fellas, compete,'" Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said last month.
Americans support health care reform, but they don't generally support higher taxes. So it was important when Obama said he could offer health care reform without adding to the deficit.
It will be a hard promise to deliver on. The price tag for health care reform, pegged at between $1.3 trillion and $1.6 trillion for several proposals on Capitol Hill, will need revenue to pay for it without adding to the deficit.
There is no consensus on how to pay for health care reform. Obama has said he wants to pay for reform by lowering the percentage of their tax returns the wealthy can deduct. Essentially, this would raise taxes on the rich.
But even many Democrats on Capitol Hill don't want to change those rules. It could have unintended consequences on donations to charities, the subject of many deductions for the wealthy.
Moderates and some conservatives want to pay for health care reform by taxing health care benefits. Look at it this way: An worker is paid two ways -- One, they get a salary, which is taxed. Two, they get benefits, which currently are not.
One way to pay for health care reform would be to tax those benefits. This would raise taxes on everybody who pays taxes and could raise more than enough money to pay for health care. Candidate Obama promised throughout 2008 not to raise taxes on anyone making less than $250,000 per year.