While Mr. Obama is expected to address a joint session of Congress Wednesday to lay out his plan to reform the nation's health-care system, the president said Monday he hoped for "a marketplace" for health insurance that would "continue to hold down costs."
"I continue to believe that a public option within that basket of insurance choices will help," Mr. Obama said.
Those comments could have been directed at Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), who has indicated she would support a government-sponsored option that would be "triggered" if private insurers do not meet certain standards.
Mr. Obama asked the friendly audience to tune in Wednesday night to see him deliver his plan in full, but that didn't stop him from talking about health care in broader terms.
"I want a health-insurance system that works well for the American people as it does for the insurance industry," Mr. Obama said. "They should be free to make a profit, but they also have to be fair."
The president also addressed critics who have attacked his reform campaign.
"I've got a question for all of those folks," Mr. Obama said. "What are you going to do? What's your answer? What's your solution? And you know what? They don't have one. … Their answer is to do nothing, and we know what that future looks like."
And Mr. Obama didn't just address those who criticize him on health care. Those who attacked his plans to address the nation's schoolchildren Tuesday were also included in his speech.
"Yes, I'm going to have something to say tomorrow to our children," Mr. Obama said, "tell them to stay in school and work hard because that's the right message to send."
The White House even released Mr. Obama's prepared remarks Monday following reports that some parents would rather keep their children home from school than let them hear the president's message.
While the speech launched the president's weeklong push to turn the tide in his favor for action on health care, the event had the feel of a rally from Mr. Obama's campaign last year, reports CBS News White House Correspondent Mark Knoller.
Marking his 231st day in office, Mr. Obama defended the stimulus package his administration passed earlier this year and introduced his new senior adviser on manufacturing. He highlighted projects the stimulus package delivered to Ohio and spoke to Buckeye State residents like they were old friends, even calling on his audience to help him push Congress to pass health-reform legislation.
"Ohio, it's time to act," Mr. Obama said. "Let's get this thing done."