20090817 health care public option 18
Prostesters demonstrate against Democratic-sponsored health-care reform at a rally before President Obama's visit on August 15, 2009, in Grand Junction, Colo. - 


Tess Vigeland: The health-care debate continues to rage at town halls and on cable TV. Or should I say the rage continues in the health-care debate. Now the Obama administration is hinting it could live without the so-called public option. The idea was to have a government-run plan that would compete with private insurers and force costs down. But if the public option's out, what's in? Is meaningful reform still possible? Tamara Keith has more from Washington.

TAMARA KEITH: How much the public plan matters all depends on who you ask. Former Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean talked about it on the Today Show this morning.

HOWARD DEAN: You're not going to have real reform without some kind of a public option, that's pretty clear.

There are plenty of Democrats in Congress who agree with him. So President Obama may ultimately have to convince members of his own party that health-care legislation is worth supporting even without a public plan.

Paul Ginsberg, President of the Center for Studying Health System Change, says a public plan was never the most important part of a health-care overhaul.

PAUL GINSBERG: Many aspects of reform of the insurance market that seem to be accepted by both Democrats and moderate Republicans, House and Senate, are much more important than the public plan.

Those changes include requiring more people to have health insurance and not allowing insurance companies to reject people with pre-existing conditions.

In Washington, I'm Tamara Keith for Marketplace.