President Obama today asked members of the American Medical Association to support his health reform proposals.

“No matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise to the American people: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period,” Obama said in Chicago at the annual conference of the AMA, Chicago, according to a written version of his remarks provided by the White House.

“If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan, period,” Obama said. “No one will take it away, no matter what. My view is that health care reform should be guided by a simple principle: Fix what’s broken and build on what works. And that’s what we intend to do.

Obama told AMA members he needs their help to reform the health care system because, “to most Americans, you are the health care system.”

Obama also talked about ideas for reforming the medical malpractice system.

“Now, I recognize that it will be hard to make some of these changes if doctors feel like they’re constantly looking over their shoulders for fear of lawsuits,” Obama said. “Now, I understand some doctors may feel the need to order more tests and treatments to avoid being legally vulnerable.”

When doctors applauded those lines, Obama said, “Now, just hold on to your horses here, guys. I want to be honest with you. I’m not advocating caps on malpractice awards, which I personally believe can be unfair to people who’ve been wrongfully harmed.”

But Obama said policymakers need to explore ideas about how to put patient safety first and “how to encourage broader use of evidence-based guidelines.”

“I want to work with the AMA so we can scale back the excessive defensive medicine that reinforces our current system, and shift to a system where we are providing better care,” Obama said.

Earlier, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs handled questions about the health reform effort during a briefing aboard Air Force One, as the aircraft was en route to Chicago.

“We’re very enthusiastic about where we are in this process,” Gibbs said, according to a briefing transcript. “I think the president will outline a strong case that health care reform is not only necessary and needed but can’t wait. It can’t wait for the millions of people that are being crushed by skyrocketing health care costs. Our federal budget can’t wait as Medicare and Medicaid — the costs of Medicare and Medicaid skyrocket.”

When asked about how Obama reform proposals would help doctors, Gibbs said, “They don’t want to be insurance administrators…They want to treat patients; they want to provide the best quality of coverage; they want to do so in a way that’s affordable. That’s why people get into practicing medicine. And I think those are all goals shared by the president.”

Gibbs also talked about public health plans.

There’s a “need to ensure that there is an affordable option for those that are getting the opportunity to get affordable health care,” Gibbs said.

Allison Bell contributed information to this report.