Obama on health reform: 'Fix what needs fixing and move forward'

In his State of the Union speech Tuesday night, President Obama defended the healthcare overhaul, but allowed that some areas could be tweaked. Less than three months after Republicans gained control of the House and chipped away at the Democrats' majority in the Senate, Obama struck a conciliatory note, acknowledging differences and opening the door to improving the healthcare reform.

"Now, I have heard rumors that a few of you still have concerns about our new healthcare law," he said, drawing laughter with his understated approach.

In a nod to those across the aisle, he noted that the overhaul wasn't perfect. "So let me be the first to say that anything can be improved," he added. "If you have ideas about how to improve this law by making care better or more affordable, I am eager to work with you."

Obama, however, also said that he was not going to turn back the clock completely. "What I'm not willing to do...is go back to the days when insurance companies could deny someone coverage because of a preexisting condition," he said. He went on to refer to a brain cancer patient and a small-business owner in the audience who were benefiting from the reform.

He also made a plea to move beyond the bickering over a repeal. "Instead of re-fighting the battles of the last two years, let's fix what needs fixing and let's move forward," he said.

The opposition apparently was not impressed. In the official Republican response, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) dismissed the SOTU speech and tied healthcare spending to the deficit.

"Healthcare spending is driving the explosive growth of our debt," Ryan said. "And the president's law is accelerating our country toward bankruptcy."

Meanwhile, the Tea Party, in its response, tied reform law to unemployment. "Obamacare mandates and penalties may even force many job creators to just stop offering health insurance altogether," Rep. Michelle Backhman said. The Tea Party's response was not part of the official Republican reaction.

To learn more:
- read the transcript of the SOTU speech
- here's the Tea Party response
- here's the official Republican response