In an interview with ThinkProgress yesterday, Gov. Howard Dean laid out the principles that he thinks should guide the health care reform debate. Dean argued against a single-payer system, against an individual mandate, and for extending free health care to all Americans under the age of 25.
The former DNC Chairman advocated building upon the existing employer-based health care system by giving Americans the choice of keeping their existing insurance plan or enrolling in a new public option. “People hate the health care system, but they love their own doctor and they pretty much like the care they get,” he explained. “So what you cannot do is create some system that is going to scare people.”
Dean — who had expressed interest to the Obama White House in becoming HHS Secretary — argued that free choice and competition should be the cornerstones of health reform. “The brilliance of Barack Obama’s plan on the campaign trail was a) no one has to change if they like what they’ve got and b) if you want to, you could essentially buy into Medicare,” Dean said. If Obama enacts health reform that contains a public plan option, Dean predicted that Americans will choose it:
The American people will preferentially choose Medicare, but not all of them will choose Medicare. So we will have a hybrid system. Many more people will be in a public sector because it will probably be better for them. But they will only be in the public sector if they want to be, and they can get out of the public sector if they choose to try something different later on. That seems fair to me. I don’t think we should impose a single payer on everybody, but I do think we should give Americans the choice of having one if they like it. If it works for them, that’s what they’ll choose; if it doesn’t work for them, they’ll choose the private sector. But I don’t buy that the private sector has a right to compete and be more inefficient. I don’t think anybody has a right to serve people worse than somebody else just because they’re private sector.
On Thursday, the White House will convene a health care summit that will “include members of Congress and representatives of the health care and insurance industries.” Single-payer advocate Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) is expected to attend. While Obama is busy rallying support for his health care agenda, a conservative patients rights group announced that it is mounting a $20 million misinformation campaign to stop it.