U.S. President Barack Obama's administration has signaled it could drop a key feature of its health care proposal as Mr. Obama seeks to regain momentum in the contentious debate over health care reform.

Two senior administration officials appearing on television Sunday seemed to back away from a government-run health insurance plan that would compete with private companies.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the administration would be open to nonprofit insurance cooperatives that operate independently from the government to cover the almost 50 million Americans without health insurance.

Presidential spokesman Robert Gibbs said the president would be satisfied with choice and competition in the insurance market.  He did not say whether a public option would be critical to the health care reform bill.

Some Republicans say the co-ops might be a politically viable alternative to the public plan, which they say would put private insurers out of business.

Yet some of the more liberal members of Mr. Obama's Democratic Party say the public health plan is the only meaningful way to control costs by competing with the private sector.

President Obama and the Democrat-controlled Congress have sought to debunk rumors and win support from skeptical Americans as the opposition ramps up pressure.

Some Republicans say the president's reforms will cost too much and amount to a government takeover of health care.

Some information for this report was provided by AP