Speaking in Grand Junction, Colo., in August, President Barack Obama said a "public option ... is not the entirety of health care reform. This is just one sliver of it, one aspect of it."
But it is the crucial sliver, the sliver that separates true health care reform from some modest reform of the health insurance industry.
As former national Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean has often noted, reforming the insurance industry is largely a regulatory matter and shouldn't carry the $900 billion 10-year price tag that has been attached to health care reform.
It's not surprising that Dean, a doctor, would argue that health care reform without a public option isn't really health care reform. National Public Radio recently reported that a survey conducted by researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine found that nearly three-quarters of the nation's doctors support a public option.
That included 63 percent who want their patients to have a choice between public and private insurance and 10 percent who favor a public plan only.
Doctors should have a greater understanding than most Americans of what it will take to fix our broken health care system. Some even will protest in Washington today for a single-payer, government-run system.
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