Dean Likes The Health Care Deal

And he says progressives can support it. The former Democratic National Committee chairman tells Greg Sargent that the Senate health care deal, details of which are still uncertain (though Dean clears some of this up), contains "real reform."

The compromise agreed upon by Senate Democrats reportedly does away with the public option and instead 1) lets 55-64 year-olds buy into Medicare, though, as Dean confirms, without subsidies, and 2) asks private insurers to establish nonprofit health plans, set up by the Office of Personnel Management, to be available on health insurance exchanges across the country. There's also a trigger mechanism: if those nonprofit plans aren't satisfactory, a government-run plan would kick in.

A political question hovering over this deal is: can progressive House Democrats support its fundamentals, if they are included in the final bill after the Senate and House versions are merged in conference? (Conventional wisdom around health reform has long predicted that the Senate version will indeed form the basis for the final package.)

Dean says they can:

The question is, Is there enough of a kernel of real reform in the bill to make it possible for progressives to vote for it? Given the details we know today, I think there is. The group at largest risk is being taken care of, those over 55. There really is reform. Is there enough reform? No. But significant reform matters."

Progressives have formerly threatened to block legislation that does not include a robust public option. Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), a co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus, told me in September that progressives could not support a trigger mechanism; Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) predicted in late October that inclusion of a trigger, in lieu of directly creating a public option, could kill health reform in the House.

In a statement on the new deal as it emerged yesterday, Grijalva said that he "cannot support a system that forces Americans to buy private insurance and then allows those companies to collect government subsidies without competition."

This morning, progressives were still waiting for details on the deal, which they'll probably get this afternoon once House and Senate leaders and relevant committee chairs get back from the White House, where they met with President Obama to discuss the plan earlier today.