Obama: Public option ‘not the most important’ part of healthcare bill

President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaAll five living former presidents to attend hurricane relief concert Overnight Health Care: Schumer calls for tying ObamaCare fix to children's health insurance | Puerto Rico's water woes worsen | Dems plead for nursing home residents' right to sue Interior moves to delay Obama’s methane leak rule MORE said Monday that Congress should approve a final healthcare bill even if it doesn’t include a public option.

Obama said the House and Senate bills are 95 percent “identical” and downplayed the fact that final legislation is unlikely to include a public health insurance option during an Oval Office interview with American Urban Radio Networks’ April Ryan.

“There's 5 percent differences, and one of those differences is the public option,” Obama said.

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“But this is an area that has just become symbolic of a lot of ideological fights. As a practical matter, this is not the most important aspect to this bill — the House bill or the Senate bill.”

Obama rejected criticism from liberal and African-American groups that see the absence of a public option in the Senate bill as a cave-in to insurance companies, who will get millions of new customers because of mandates that require people to buy insurance.

There is a public option in the House bill, but a public option was stripped from the Senate bill two weeks ago.

Obama hailed the fact that the legislation will extend insurance to more people while downplaying the lack of a public option.

“But either way, whether there's a public option in there or not, if you don't have health insurance, you are going to have now the option of getting it at a reasonable cost,” Obama said. “And that's the most important thing.”

Obama said he stayed up to watch the Senate take a key procedural vote on healthcare just after 1 a.m. Monday morning.

“I was up because I wanted to make sure that I was watching what could end up being a historic moment,” the president said.

Obama said he is “now confident” the bill is going to pass, saying, “There is so much good in this bill."