When Barack Obama assumed the presidency, there was talk that former Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean might be his Secretary of Health and Human Services.
That would have made Dean the administration’s point person in the fight for healthcare reform.
It also would have increased the likelihood that reform would be real.
But Dean was rejected.
And, now, the prospect of real reform is fading fast.
Dean said last week at the “Netroots Nation” gathering in Pittsburgh that the only thing that made healthreform legislation proposed by House committees (and apparently backed by the administration) worth doing was the public option. In that legislation, the physician and former Vermont governor argued, “the last shred of reform is the public option.”
Just days later, however, the administration appeared to be shredding that last shred of reform.
The Associated Press reports that, “President Barack Obama’s administration signaled Sunday it is ready to abandon the idea of giving Americans the option of government-run insurance as part of a new health care system.”
The woman who got the HHS job reform advocates had hoped would go to Dean certainly seemed Sunday to be jettisoning the idea of creating a government-organized alternative to private health insurance Sunday.
Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union” program, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius dismissed the public option as “not the essential element” of the administration’s healthcare agenda.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said pretty much the same thing when he appeared Sunday on the CBS News program “Face the Nation.”
“What the president has said is in order to inject choice and competition. . . people ought to be able to have some competition in that market,” said Gibbs.
Pressed on whether the administration was abandoning the public option, Gibbs would only say that, “The president has thus far sided with the notion that that can best be done with a public option.”