Obama: I’ll Start Working On Health Care During Christmas Recess

December 23, 2009 1:04 p.m.

In an interview today with PBS, President Obama said he plans to begin working on merging the Senate and House health care bills before Congress returns from Christmas recess.

“We hope to have a whole bunch of folks over here in the West Wing, and I’ll be rolling up my sleeves and spending some time before the full Congress even gets into session,” Obama said, “because the American people need it now.”

Obama is expected to work with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to merge the bills.

“I intend to work as hard as I have to work, especially after coming this far over the course of the year, to make sure that we finally close the deal,” Obama said.

The House returns Jan. 12, and the Senate returns Jan. 18.Asked if he had a list of provisions that must be included to gain his signature, the President said the bill must improve care, reduce costs and reduce medical errors. But the public option is not a deal breaker.

I’ve been in favor of the public option. I think the more choice, the more competition we have, the better.

On the other hand, I think that the exchange itself, the system that we’re setting up that forces insurance companies to essentially bid for three million or four million or five million people’s business, that in and of itself is going to have a disciplining effect.

Would I like one of those options to be the public option? Yes. Do I think that it makes sense, as some have argued, that, without the public option, we dump all these other extraordinary reforms and we say to the 30 million people who don’t have coverage, “You know, sorry. We didn’t get exactly what we wanted”? I don’t think that makes sense.

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