WASHINGTON, June 23 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama Tuesday gave a hint of wiggle room on including a public health insurance option in the debate on reforming U.S. healthcare.
"We are still early in this process," Obama said during a White House news conference. "(We) 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."
If an issue arises during congressional debate on healthcare about which he has a strong opinion, "I will express (it) to members of Congress as this is shaping up," Obama said. "It's too early to say that."
Private insurance companies have a legitimate concern if a public healthcare option "was simply eating off the taxpayer trough," making harder for private entities to compete.
But if a public plan can reduce administrative costs significantly, "then I'd like the (private) insurance companies ... to say if the public plan can do this, why can't we?"
The president expressed optimism about several proposals to reform the U.S. healthcare system that are being debated in Congress, noting that it would not add to the deficit during the next decade.
"We will find the money through savings and efficiencies within the healthcare system," Obama said.
"There is no doubt that we must preserve what is best about our healthcare system, and that means allowing Americans who like their doctors and their healthcare plans to keep them," Obama said. "But unless we fix what is broken in our current system, everyone's healthcare will be in jeopardy."