Today, during an appearance on MSNBC’s Hardball, former Gov. Howard Dean (D-VT) said that a public insurance option is essential to any health reform effort:
If Barack Obama’s bill gets changed to exclude the public entities, it is not health insurance reform…it rises and falls on whether the public is allowed to choose Medicare if they’re under 65 or not. If they are allowed to choose Medicare as an option, this bill will be real health care reform. If they’re not, we will be back fighting about it for another 20 years before somebody tries again.
Progressives argue that regulated competition between a public and private health insurance plans would lower health care costs and improve quality. In other words, allowing patients the choice of a private plan or a public plan would re-invigorate real market competition. Private and public plans would have to deliver the highest quality at the lowest possible cost to attract patients.
This is certainly a familiar argument, but Dean is going one step further. He’s suggesting that a public option is a key progressive value, on par with universality and affordability of coverage. President Obama is expected to lay out his health care principles during tonight’s address. We’ll have to see if the President agrees with the Governor.