Obama Says Health Care Reform Can't Wait

The president said that as a result of his administration's actions, including the $787 billion package, "we have been able to pull our economy back from the brink."

But he cautioned that the nation still has "a long way to go."

In an interview with Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt this afternoon, Obama said this is the best opportunity to get health care reform passed and if it fails, nothing will happen for at least four years.

"If health care reform fails, there is no way that Congress is going to take up a serious effort to control health care inflation -- there's no way that we're going to pass the kinds of changes we've already talked about in Medicare, for example, in the absence of a more comprehensive reform package," he said. "And so what we're going to have is a situation in which it's just business as usual for, I think, the next four years at minimum, and maybe the next eight -- in which case, the problem is just going to keep on getting worse and worse."

In his fourth prime time press conference from the White House, the president aimed his message directly at the American people, especially those skeptical about his push for reform.

"I realize that with all the charges and criticisms being thrown around in Washington, many Americans may be wondering, 'What's in this for me? How does my family stand to benefit from health insurance reform?'" he said.

Obama's Health Care Push

The president has been consistently pushing Congress to get a bill passed in the House and Senate before lawmakers recess in August, but that looks increasingly unlikely.

Democrats have expressed reservations about the deadline and Republicans say the president is moving too fast.

"Members have concerns, and they're not just Blue Dogs," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters Tuesday, referring to the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition of House Democrats. "I want to make it very clear that there's progressives, Blue Dogs and everybody in between who have expressed concerns, and we're working on that."

The chief concerns among Democrats include the costs to overhaul the program and tax increases on the wealthy.

In an ABC News/Washington Post poll released Monday, just under half, 49 percent, of Americans said they approve of Obama's handling of health care, down 8 percent from when he took office.

Eight in 10 in the poll expressed concern that reform could reduce their quality, coverage and choice of care, and increase their costs, government bureaucracy and the deficit, with anywhere from 51 to 62 percent "very" concerned about these outcomes. Fifty-eight percent of Americans said they were doubtful that they would be able to keep the coverage they have now without any changes, even though the president has said repeatedly that the choice will remain.

The president dismissed the sinking approval ratings on health care, saying in a PBS interview Monday that "it means what we're doing is hard."

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