"So we have to deal with costs," Obama said. "I haven't heard anybody disagree with that."
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., a doctor, said Congress needs to target ways to bring down costs and reduce waste in the health care system, but there is "a philosophical difference" between the approaches of Democrats and Republicans.
"One wants a more government-centered approach to that," he said. "I would personally prefer a more patient-centered, market-oriented approach to that."
During the session, Obama disputed the notion that the Democrats' plan amounted to a government takeover of the health care industry.
"There was a lot of talk about government takeover of health care," he said. "And the implication, I think, was that everybody was going to have to sign up for a government health care plan. Now, that's not the issue. What the issue here, which we've had an honest disagreement about, is how much should government set a baseline versus just letting people decide that, you know, 'I can't really get decent insurance, but, you know, maybe this is better than nothing.'"
Many members used their opportunities at the microphone to convey the stories of constituents who struggled to afford or maintain health care coverage.
Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., told a story about a constituent who could not afford new dentures.
"You will not believe this, and I know you won't, but it's true. Her sister died. This poor woman had no dentures. She wore her dead sister's teeth, which, of course, were uncomfortable and did not fit," Slaughter said. "Do you ever believe that in America that that's where we would be?"
Obama kicked off the bipartisan health care summit this morning expressing his hope that Democrats and Republicans can bridge their divide to achieve a substantive discussion about how to move forward on overhaul legislation.
But he lamented that the urgent need for change had been overshadowed by politics, despite a year of work on the contentious issue.
"This became a very ideological battle -- a very partisan battle -- and politics, I think, ended up trumping common sense," Obama said in opening remarks at Blair House, across the street from the White House.
Republicans came to the table to try to paint the latest legislation as a bad bill but show that they are willing to offer ideas and not just be the party of 'No,' as the Democrats have depicted them.
Obama said there are overlaps between the Democratic and Republican proposals. "It's not perfect overlap," he said. "It's not 100 percent overlap, but there's some overlap."
But the president said he wanted to address the areas of disagreement and see if there were ways to "bridge those gaps."
"I don't know that those gaps can be bridged, and it may be that at the end of the day, we come out here and everybody says, 'Well, you know, we have some honest disagreements. People are sincere in wanting to help but they've got different ideas about how to do it and we can't bridge the gap between Democrats and Republicans on this,'" he said.
ABC News' Huma Khan contributed to this report.