Howard Dean Locks Horns with White House and Dem Senators After Call to 'Kill' Health Compromise

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs on Wednesday became the latest Democrat to offer a sharp rebuttal to Howard Dean over the former Vermont governor's call to "kill" the Senate health care bill now that the bill includes neither a public option nor a Medicare buy-in option.

"I would ask Dr. Dean, how better do you address those who don't have insurance: passing a bill that will cover 30 million who don't currently have it or killing the bill?" Gibbs said, as quoted by Sam Stein at the Huffington Post. "I don't think any rational person would say killing the bill makes a whole lot of sense at this point."

In a sign of a rift within the Democratic Party over the removal of all public health care options from the Senate reform bill, Sen. Jay Rockefeller strongly criticized former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean's call for the bill to be voted down.

"It's nonsense," Rockefeller, Democrat of West Virginia, said of Dean's call to "kill the Senate bill." Added Rockefeller: "It's irresponsible, and coming from him as a physician, it's stunning, and he's wrong."

Rockefeller told MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell on Wednesday that there are still many useful measures in the Senate health care bill that are worth passing. Rockefeller noted that the bill mandated a "medical loss ratio" for health insurers of 85 percent to 90 percent, meaning that insurers would be required to spend that percentage of their revenue on providing health care.

Rockefeller said the bill would extend children's health benefits for 14.1 million children whose benefits were set to expire, and noted the number of children covered under the benefits would be expanded, but did not say how many more children would qualify for the benefits.

The senator from West Virginia noted that he had been a supporter of the public option and Medicare buy-in, "but [we] were shot down, so what do I do? Do I take my football and run home and sulk? ... No, I look at the entire bill and I say, 'What is in the interest of the people of my state and the people of America?' and then I vote. In my case I'm going to vote yes."

Dean, who worked as a physician before his stints as governor of Vermont and then chair of the Democratic National Committee, said earlier this week that the removal of the Medicare buy-in provision represented "the end of health care reform in the United States Senate." He suggested that Democrats should start from scratch and craft a new bill.

While many progressive supporters were alarmed by the announcement earlier this month that the government-run public option would be ditched in the Senate bill in favor of a Medicare buy-in option for people aged 55 to 64, Dean came out in favor of the proposal.

That helped to solidify progressives' support for the idea. And it may have also helped convince Sen. Lieberman to come out against the idea, despite having voiced backing for a Medicare buy-in as recently as three months ago. Some supporters of health care reform have criticized Lieberman's decision to oppose the buy-in because it had the support of progressives as "deeply immoral."

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.