03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Obama 'Absolutely' Will Help Merge Health Care Bills (VIDEO)

While many Americans are wrapping gifts, President Barack Obama is pledging to personally wrap up health-care reform.

Obama told PBS's Jim Lehrer that he would 'absolutely' take a hands-on role in merging it with the House version. The Senate passed its version of the health care bill Thursday morning.

"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," he said.

This comes after the president has taken some criticism for being too passive and allowing too many aspects of health care reform to be compromised. He responded to those charges in an interview with the Washington Post:

Throughout the health-care debate, the president has declined to weigh in with specific preferences. The tactic has exasperated his supporters, but his advisers have deemed it key in keeping the bill moving through a balky Congress. Obama called the public option his preferred choice to ensure broad coverage and provide cost-cutting competition to the private insurers. But he has never demanded that it be part of a final bill.

"We don't feel that the core elements to help the American people have been compromised in any significant way," Obama said. "Do these pieces of legislation have exactly everything I want? Of course not. But they have the things that are necessary to reduce costs for businesses, families and the government."

Speaking about his decision to finally roll-up his sleeves, Obama told Lehrer:

Right now there are families who don't have health insurance and, as a consequence of somebody getting sick in their family, have been bankrupt. Right now there are small businesses who've been doing the right thing by their employees and just got a notice from their insurance companies that their premiums went up 25, 30, 40 percent; and that business owner's having to make a decision, do I start dropping coverage for my employees or do I have to lay off one employee to keep coverage for everybody else?


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