WASHINGTON -- After a day of wrangling and heated negotiations in the Senate over health care reform, one of the most trusted progressive voices in the nation championed the latest compromise reached by Democrats.

"I judge all these plans by whether they move things forward or move things backward," Dean said on the CBS Early Show Wednesday. "This moves things forward."

The talks considerably weakened -- if not eliminated -- the much-discussed public insurance option, instead opting to increase coverage by expanding Medicare, a government-run single-payer program.

"Medicare is a very, very effective program," he said. "Everybody over 65 is in it, it works very well."

Though Dean has been a vocal champion of the public option, he reaffirmed that progressive goals of lowering costs and covering more people can be achieved in different ways.

"It is a public program that people over 55 are allowed to buy into, and it makes a lot of sense because you don't have to invent another bureaucracy to do it," Dean said. "This is what should have been done in the first place -- this kind of thing."

The public option hasn't won any support from Republicans, and some Democrats in conservative regions have been wary of backing it.

"I think this is still real reform," he said, pressed on whether jettisoning the public option meant the bill is no longer worth supporting. "Whatever we call it is irrelevant. Is it going to work? Yes, it is."

Dean said the Medicare expansions could potentially occur alongside a public option, but didn't say whether he thinks it will happen.

He had his criticisms, too.

"There's not much cost control in the bill on either side," he said, praising the House bill for seeking to reach many more American residents. "This isn't perfect and the coverage is not broad enough in my view, but I do think this is a positive step forward."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who hasn't showed much enthusiasm toward anything Democrats have proposed on health care, was caught in a major flip-flop yesterday after reversing his stance on Medicare in the span of one day.

An important vote over whether to slap stronger restrictions on abortion coverage in the health care exchanges failed yesterday by a margin of 54 to 45, signaling a major victory for pro-choice individuals after what appeared to be a series of steps in the opposite direction.

This video is from CBS' Early Show, broadcast Dec. 9, 2009.

Download video via RawReplay.com

--David Edwards contributed to this report