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Dean: Public Option "Linked" to Reform

(AP Photo/Toby Talbot)
A day after President Obama's health secretary indicated the administration might drop its support for a government-funded option from its campaign for health-care reform, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who's also a doctor, gave a second opinion the administration probably doesn't want to hear.

"I don't think it can pass without the public option," Dean said about the bill to CBS Anchor Maggie Rodriguez on "The Early Show." "There are too many people who understand, including the president himself, the public option is absolutely linked to reform."

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told CNN Sunday the public option is "not the essential element" of the administration's pursuit of health-care reform. She said the White House would be open to throwing its support behind a co-op model instead, which could receive more support from Republicans.

However, the administration hasn't withdrawn its support from a public option completely. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said "a government plan is the best way to provide choice and competition" on "Face the Nation" Sunday.

Dean supports the idea of the government providing Americans with an option to private insurance. He said any other changes wouldn't improve the country's health-care system.

"You can't have reform without a public option," Dean said. "If you really want to fix the health-care system, you've got to give the public the choice of having such an option. If you don't want to have the public option, you most certainly shouldn't spend $60 billion a year subsidizing the health-insurance industry."

Dean also brought up the possibility of ignoring Republicans and using the Democrats' majorities in Congress to pass a reform package with a public option, a point Mr. Obama heard at least once during a series of town-hall meetings last week.

"My guess is the Republicans aren't going to vote for this bill no matter what," Dean said. "There's no point in making a lot of concessions to people who aren't going to vote for the bill under any circumstances anyway … If you don't have the Republicans playing seriously in this bill, you only have the Democrats, and the Democrats want a public option."

For supporters of the public option, Dean gave the bill a positive prognosis.

"It will pass with the public option," he said, "and the president will sign it sometime in December."

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