Update: Dean tells Good Morning America that he thinks health bill should be scrapped: Video at bottom
WASHINGTON -- Following the jettisoning of both the public option and the Medicare buy-in provision, one of the nation's leading progressive voices on health care reportedly said Tuesday that the Senate bill is no longer worth supporting.
"This is essentially the collapse of health care reform in the United States Senate," former Gov. Howard Dean told political reporter Bob Kinzel of Vermont Public Radio. Kinzel relayed the news to The Plum Line's Greg Sargent, and the full VPR interview will air at 5:50 pm today.
"Honestly the best thing to do right now is kill the Senate bill, go back to the House, start the reconciliation process, where you only need 51 votes and it would be a much simpler bill," he said.
Dean has been an outspoken champion of the public insurance option, describing it as the central component of the legislation. A health care bill without it, he has said, is not worth supporting.
Dean lifted the spirits of dismayed progressives after the public option was compromised in favor of the Medicare buy-in provision. He said last Wednesday that it was a "positive step forward," and that expanding existing government-run insurance programs can achieve the same goals of lowering premiums and extending coverage.
But now that the Medicare compromise has also been scrapped, Dean no longer thinks the bill will meet these goals. According to him, it's time for Democrats to pull the plug and start over using the parliamentary procedure known as reconciliation, through which a bill can be passed with a 51-vote majority.
While some progressives agree with Dean, others say the bill still improves the current system.
"The public option and its compromised iterations were a battle that came to seem like a war," Washington Post's Ezra Klein wrote on Wednesday. "But they weren't the war. The bill itself was."
"On its own terms, the bill is the most important social policy achievement since the Great Society. It will save a lot of lives and prevent a lot of suffering," he added.
"Political change isn't easy," wrote Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo. "It includes tons of reverses and inevitably involves not getting a lot of what you wanted, at least not at first... People don't agree on things. That's life. But that's different from cashing out of the process if you don't get just what you want."
"I understand that most of the liberal skepticism over the Senate bill is well intentioned," Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight wrote on Wednesday. "But it has become way, way off the mark."
Dean's declaration comes on the same day that President Obama gave a speech signaling that positive health reform will pass. Obama warned that inaction will create many more problems. "If we don't get this done, your premiums are guaranteed to go up," he said.
This video is from ABC's Good Morning America, broadcast Dec. 16, 2009.
"This a bigger bailout for the insurance industry than AIG," Dean told Good Morning America.
Excerpts from George Stephanopoulos' ABC News report:
"A very small number of people will get insurance, if at all, until 2014,” Dean told me this morning, “This is the insurance companies' dream, this bill.”
Dean argued health care reform is the victim of bad decisions in Washington.
“Bad decisions were made along the way,” Dean said on GMA, “Now we're in the last week of this. And this is the Washington scramble. And I think it's ill-advised.”