In an interview airing Sunday night on CBS' "60 Minutes," Obama said the health care system itself is huge and complicated and that changing it eluded previous presidents because it was so difficult.
"I made the decision to go ahead and do it, and it proved as costly politically as we expected - probably actually a little more costly than we expected, politically," he said.
Obama said he thought that he would find common ground with Republicans by advancing health care proposals that had been introduced by Republican administrations as well as potential presidential candidate Mitt Romney when he was governor of Massachusetts.
"I couldn't get the kind of cooperation from Republicans that I had hoped for," he said. "And that was costly, partly because it created the kind of partisanship and bickering that really turn people off."
Obama said the danger of a second major recession is "much reduced" and a great depression is not on the horizon. Still a danger, he said, is the nation being "stuck in a new normal where unemployment rates stay high."
"I do get discouraged. I mean, there are times where I thought the economy would had gotten better by now," he said. "One of the things I think you understand as president is you're held responsible for everything. But you don't always have control of everything, especially an economy this big."
However, Obama sounded optimistic about the nation's economic future.
"I am constantly reminded that we have been through worse times than these, and we've always come out on top," he said. "And I'm positive that the same thing is going to happen this time."
Obama said his two years as president haven't changed his ideals.
"But I think that in terms of how I operated on a day-to-day basis, when you've got a series of choices to make - I think that there are times where we said let's just get it done instead of worrying about how we're getting it done," he said. "And I think that's a problem. I'm paying a political price for that."