Health-care debate can't go on: Obama

U.S. President Barack Obama ends the daylong televised health-care summit saying he is unsure whether the Democrats and Republicans can resolve their differences but suggesting he wants to press ahead with legislation.

U.S. President Barack Obama ended the daylong televised health-care summit Thursday saying he is unsure whether the Democrats and Republicans can resolve their differences.

But Obama suggested he wants to press ahead with legislation.

"We cannot have another year-long debate about this," he said as he closed the meeting with House leaders and Democratic and Republican senators and members of Congress.

"The question that I'm going to ask myself and I ask of all of  you is, is there enough serious effort that in a month’s time, or a few weeks’ time or six weeks’ time, we could actually resolve something? And if we can't, then I think we've got to go and make some decisions, and that's what elections are for."

Obama called on the Republicans to do "a little soul-searching" to find out if there are things they'd be willing to embrace to get to the problem of covering 30 million people without health insurance.

"I don't know frankly if we can close that gap," he said.

Obama strongly suggested he supported Democrats passing health-care legislation by using controversial reconciliation rules in the Senate that would disallow filibusters and allow legislation to pass with a simple majority vote.

Obama said that the public isn't too interested in Senate procedures, but "I think most Americans think that a majority vote makes sense."

The purpose of the discussion at Blair House, the White House guest residence, was to suggest ways to move forward with health-care legislation. The purpose was to consider ways to control health-care costs and expand coverage, deficit reduction and insurance reform.

Republicans insisted Obama scrap Democratic bills and start again.

"We have a very difficult gap to bridge here," said Rep. Eric Cantor, the No. 2 House Republican. "We just can't afford this. That's the ultimate problem."

Earlier, Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander, speaking on behalf of Republicans, said lawmakers should scrap the health-care bill Senate Democrats passed on Christmas Eve and start from scratch.

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi countered that it's too late to start over and that it is not an option.

Although the Democrats control both the House and the Senate, the two chambers have been unable to agree on health-care legislation, and Republicans have uniformly opposed it.

Obama's plan to reform health care was dealt another blow after the election of Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown to the Senate, which gave the party enough votes to filibuster bills.

Earlier this week, Obama unveiled his own compromise health-care plan, which attempts to bridge the differences between the stalled House and Senate bills. It would not include a publicly run insurance plan but would allow the government to cap health-insurance premiums "if a rate increase is unreasonable and unjustified."

It would also require most Americans to carry health insurance and would bar insurance companies from denying coverage to people with medical problems or charging them more.

The proposal claims it would insure more than 31 million Americans who cannot afford health insurance and reduce the U.S. deficit over the next 10 years by $100 billion.

With files from The Associated Press