Obama unyielding on public health plan — so far

With cost projections soaring and Republicans sensing an opening, President Obama said Tuesday that he has not yet "drawn any lines in the sand" when it comes to his proposed public health insurance plan.

Obama, speaking during his fourth press conference from the White House since taking office, defended his plan and sought to shoot down Republican critics who say his plan for a public health insurance option would encourage employers to dump their private plans for cheaper government-run insurance, destroying private insurance.

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But the president declined to say whether he would sign a bill that does not include such an option.

"It's too early to say that," Obama said. "Right now, let me say that it's our position that a public plan makes sense."

Obama said the negotiations are "still early in the process," and he has "not drawn lines in the sand" other than to say the legislation has to control costs and offer a way for the uninsured to get the help they need.

But Obama seemed to concede for the first time that some employers will opt for public insurance, a major criticism of free-market enthusiasts who see the president's plan as an inevitable step toward government-run healthcare.

In trying to clarify his longstanding defense that those who like their plan and their doctor will be able to keep both, the president said it won't be the government that makes that decision for them. He appeared to be saying that, in fact, some employers will make that decision for their employees.