Dean lets loose on healthcare

Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean had some choice words for those who disagree with him on healthcare reform Wednesday morning.

Dean, a physician and former Vermont governor, appeared on C-SPAN's "Washington Journal" to talk healthcare and promote his new book on the topic: "Howard Dean's Prescription for Real Health-care Reform: How We Can Achieve Affordable Medical Care for Every American and Make Our Jobs Safer."

And within minutes of the hour long interview, Dean fired away at senators that oppose a public insurance option and teed off on other physicians in Congress.

Dean strongly encouraged support for a public option in the reform package and went so far as to say that if it isn't included, no reform bill should be passed.

"If you don't have a public option," he said, "then you shouldn't do reform, because it isn't reform."

He also bluntly criticized Sen. Tom Coburn, a Oklahoma Republican and fellow physician who has argued against a public plan.

"Public healthcare does a better job for its patients than private healthcare," he said. "The senator is wrong. He's well-intentioned, he's a physician, I respect that, but he's wrong about economics."

That criticism seemed mild, though, when compared to what he said about Republican Rep. Phil Gingrey (Ga.), another physician who opposes any public plan. Dean addressed Gingrey's remarks on the same program in which Gingrey said a public plan could make it more difficult to get care. Gingrey also said that Dean's own wife, after getting her name wrong, doesn't take patients with Medicaid packages.

"Dr. Gingrey is just plain wrong," Dean said. "He's an embarrassment."

Speaking of his wife, Dean said, "She does accept Medicaid patients. So this fella simply doesn't know what he's talking about. Good thing he's in Congress cause I'd hate to see what he'd do to patients."

Where Dean significantly diverged from the president's plan was over how to pay for the public option. Dean was much more open to new taxes, including on unhealthy products that contribute to rising healthcare costs, including soda and alcohol.

"I don't have a problem with it," Dean said when asked about taxing soda or alcohol. "I have always thought there is no reason not to tax beverages that contribute to healthcare problems. While soda isn't in the same league as alcohol, those things all do contribute to healthcare problems."

Check out the full hour long interview below.



jeremy.jacobs@thehill.com