June 23, 2009— -- President Barack Obama said he "absolutely" expects to achieve health care reform by the end of this year because he believes the American people share his urgency.
"The reason it's going to get done is because the American people understand it has to get done," Obama said in an exclusive interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer airing Wednesday on "Good Morning America."
Watch Diane Sawyer's full interview with President Obama on "Good Morning America" Wednesday, June 24, at 7:00 a.m. ET
Obama would not consider what it means for his domestic agenda if he does not sign health care legislation this year. Despite recent partisan setbacks on Capitol Hill, the president said he is confident a solution can be achieved.
"We're dealing here in Washington with an enormous federal deficit and debt that is largely driven by health care costs. So, whether it's families, business or government, we know that we're going to have to reform this system," he said.
Obama said his experiences on the campaign trail and the personal stories Americans share with him solidify his belief that putting off this issue is non-negotiable.
"I travel all across the country and I've done so for the last two years now. Every town I visit, every city I go, people ask me, 'Why is it that my premiums have gone up two, three times in the last nine, 10 years? What can I do when my employer says to me we just can't afford to provide health care anymore?'" he said.
Obama Touts Health Care Plan
Earlier today, Obama defended his wide-ranging health care plan but 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."
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.
With the health care debate ramping up, with Republicans assailing Democrats for the high price tag and a public option plan, Obama's ratings on the subject slipped slightly in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll. Only 53 percent of Americans approve of Obama's handling of health care while 39 percent disapprove of it, up from 29 percent in April.
Obama continues to enjoy high approval ratings, but his policies may not be as popular. While 65 percent of Americans approve of the president's job performance, less than half of those polled, 47 percent, feel the country is not headed in the right direction, making it the first time since Obama's election that views of the country's course have not improved.