U.S. President Barack Obama told the CBS program 60 Minutes that he's confident Congress will pass a "good health-care bill."
"I believe that we will have enough votes to pass not just any health-care bill, but a good health-care bill that helps the American people, reduces costs, actually over the long-term controls our deficit," Obama said in an interview taped Friday and aired on Sunday evening. "I'm confident that we've got that."
At the same time, he was critical of Republican opponents who he said were trying to block an overhaul of the nation's health-care system for political gain.
"There are those in the Republican party who think the best thing to do is just to kill reform. That that will be good politics," he said.
Obama is trying to push opposing lawmakers away from positions — both left and right — that were threatening stalemate. That's what happened when Bill Clinton, the last Democratic president, tried to push through an overhaul in the 1990s.
Obama vowed to make sure his national health plan work, once it clears all the hurdles it faces.
"I intend to be president for a while and once this bill passes, I own it," he said. "I'm the one who's going to be held responsible."
Obama wants to make sure that any overhaul imposes strict measures to ban companies from refusing insurance to people with existing medical conditions, dropping coverage when policyholders become ill and imposing caps on what a person can claim for one illness in his lifetime.
He told 60 Minutes he didn't want Americans to say in the future: "You know what? This hasn't reduced my costs. My premiums are still going up 25 per cent, insurance companies are still jerkin' me around."
Open to ideas
Obama is trying to sweeten the deal for Republicans by indicating he is open to their ideas.
In his speech to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday and again in the 60 Minutes interview, Obama signalled he was open to the idea of so-called tort reform.
Under current practice, doctors and hospitals must pay huge amounts to insure themselves against malpractice lawsuits by patients seeking large court-ordered settlements for poor treatment.
Democrats, thanks to heavy backing from lawyers, have not supported Republican efforts to limit such payments. Doctors — and Republican politicians — say the current system drives up costs through unneeded medical procedures ordered by physicians who fear being sued.
"I would be willing to … consider any ideas out there that would actually work in terms of reducing costs, improving the quality of patient care," Obama said.
While he said he did not back limits on court-ordered rewards for malpractice, he said, "There are a range of ideas that are out there, offered by doctors' organizations like the AMA [American Medical Association], that I think we can explore."
Still, opponents converged on the U.S. Capitol over the weekend to speak out against Obama's plan.
Decrying what they see as exploding growth in government spending, people chanted "enough, enough" and "we the people" and carried signs that said, among other things, "Obamacare makes me sick."
Obama has made reforming the $2.5-trillion U.S. health-care system a priority in his first year of office.
The U.S. spends more on health care per capita than any other country in the world by far, yet life expectancy is no better than in Cuba.