President Obama pushed back against critics, including the former head of the Democratic Party, who have said that the health care bill in the Senate is fatally flawed and should be scrapped altogether.
In an interview with ABC News' Charles Gibson, the president said he laid out for Congress specific things he wanted to see in the health care legislation -- including providing insurance for millions of uninsured and not driving up the deficit -- and that the current bill still has those benefits.
"Now, if you can tell me that those things are not worth it, then you and I have a very different opinion about what the task is here," he said.
But Dr. Howard Dean, former Democratic National Committee chairman and a medical doctor, charged this week that the Senate bill has been so watered down that it is no longer worth supporting.
There are some good elements in the current health care bill, Dean said Wednesday on "Good Morning America," but "at this point, the bill does more harm than good."
Nevertheless, Obama expressed confidence today that the legislation will ultimately pass, but he indicated that it may not provide immediate results and it may be several years before the American people see real progress in health care.
"If I can say at the end of my first term that, you know what, we are poised to deliver on the promise of health care after the legislation has passed, I think that'll be important," he said.
The president stressed that failure to act on health care would be dire. If Congress does not pass legislation that will bring down the spiraling costs of health care, the federal government "will go bankrupt," Obama told Gibson.
"If we don't pass it, here's the guarantee: ... Your premiums will go up, your employers are going to load up more costs on you," he said. "Potentially, they're going to drop your coverage, because they just can't afford an increase of 25 percent, 30 percent in terms of the costs of providing health care to employees each and every year."
"This actually provides us the best chance of starting to bend the cost curve on the government expenditures in Medicare and Medicaid," Obama said.
Obama told Gibson that anybody who says they are concerned about the rising deficit or worried about tax increases in the future has to support this health care bill.
"Because if we don't do this, nobody argues with the fact that health care costs are going to consume the entire federal budget," the president said.
Obama reiterated what he told Senate Democrats behind closed doors last week: "This will be the single most important piece of domestic legislation that's passed since Social Security."
When asked whether he felt that individual senators, such as Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., were holding him hostage on the health care legislation, the president first put the blame on Republicans.
"I think that what we have right now in the Senate is a situation where the opposition party has made a political decision that we are going to say no to everything, we're going to not be at the table, we're going to just not get involved," he said.