US President Barack Obama on Tuesday expressed rare frustration at the hurdles he is facing in his efforts to overhaul the US healthcare system.
"Sometimes I get a little frustrated because this is one of those situations where it's so obvious that the system we have isn't working well for too many people, and that we could be doing better," he said.
AdvertisementObama made the comments as his healthcare reform legislation faces tough hurdles in Congress, where it is opposed by many Republicans, but must also overcome divisions among his own Democratic party.
Healthcare reform is a big gamble for Obama. A failure like that of former president Bill Clinton could cost him a lot of political capital and endanger his party's chances in the 2010 mid-term elections.
Republicans have launched an aggressive campaign against the reform, but fiscally conservative Democrats also form a major front of opposition to the legislation in the House of Representatives.
The package being considered in the Senate is different from that being debated in the lower chamber of Congress and the two versions will at some point need to be reconciled, further complicating the issue.
The two chambers have already pushed back against Obama's ambitious timetable for the legislation, warning they will not meet his deadline for a first vote on the two versions before they break for vacation on August 7.
Obama's legislation hopes to reform a healthcare system that is among the most expensive in the world, seeking to offer coverage to some 47 million Americans that have none, while still reducing record public deficits.
The president has launched his own public campaign in support of the reform, which included Tuesday a public meeting in the form of a teleconference organized by the AARP, a powerful lobby group for retired and older people.
The president faced a range of concerns, ranging from the cost of the reform at a time of massive deficits and a major recession, to questions about whether the elderly would continue to have their current health benefits.
"I'm absolutely positive that we can make the healthcare system work better, he said. "Nobody is trying to change what works in the system. We are trying to change what doesn't work in the system.
Obama also defended providing Americans with the option to join a public healthcare program that would compete with private healthcare options, despite strong opposition to such a provision among many in the Senate.
He also appeared to challenge lawmakers to stop holding up healthcare reform.
"Frankly, if we do this right, then all we're actually doing is giving the American people the same option that members of Congress have, because they've got a pretty good deal right now," Obama said.
"They have a bunch of options and different plans to select from. So if they've got a good deal, why shouldn't you?"