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The 'Public Option' Debate
In this Aug. 15, 2009, President Barack Obama talks about health care during a town hall meeting in Grand Junction, Colo. Obama's weekend concession on a health care "government option" drew complaints from liberals and scarce interest from Republicans and other critics on Monday, Aug. 17, 2009, a fresh sign of the challenge the administration confronts in finding middle ground in an increasingly partisan political struggle. (AP)

President Barack Obama talks about health care during a town hall meeting in Grand Junction, Colo., on Aug. 15, 2009. (AP)

For months in the health care reform debate, the country heard Barack Obama describe a “public option” for government-run insurance as key to overhauling American health care.

On Saturday, in Colorado, the president said the public option was “just a sliver” of reform. On Sunday, his health chief Kathleen Sebelius said it was not essential. By Monday, headlines had it on the chopping block.

Conservatives rail against it. Progressives say it’s a must. This hour, we’ll talk with Democrat Howard Dean and more about the fate of health care reform and the public option.

You can join the conversation. Tell us what you think — here on this page, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

Guests:

Joining us from Burlington, Vermont, is Howard Dean, former presidential contender, former governor of Vermont, and until January of this year chairman of the Democratic National Committee. He’s founder and senior advisor of Democracy for America, a progressive political action committee. He’s also a physician, a big voice in the health care debate, and a big supporter of the public option. His new book is “Howard Dean’s Prescription for Real Healthcare Reform.”

Joining us from Washington is Len Nichols, director of the Health Policy Program at the New America Foundation. He was senior advisor for health policy at the Office of Management and Budget during the Clinton administration’s health care reform efforts of 1993-94.

Also from Washington, we’re joined by Gail Wilensky, economist and senior fellow at Project HOPE, an international health education foundation, and recently served on the World Health Organization’s Commission on the Social Determinants of Health. She directed Medicare and Medicaid from 1990-1992.  She was an adviser to John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign and a contributor to the McCain health care plan.

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Ottawa police officers, with Parliament Hill in the background, guard the area around the National War Memorial in downtown Ottawa on Thursday. (Reuters/Landov)

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