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CBS's Smith: Some Are 'One Medical Catastrophe Away From Bankruptcy'

Speaking to former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean on Friday's CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith urged Republicans and Democrats to quickly pass some form of health care reform: "...to help the 40 some million that don't have insurance or the vast majority of other folks who are one medical catastrophe away from bankruptcy."

Dean replied by lamenting how: "The President's tried awfully hard to get even one Republican to support this." He added: "They believe if they obstruct this agenda that they can benefit from it and I think that's wrong for the country, but the Republicans have always been great at opposition, never very good at leadership."

Prior to warning of disaster if health care reform does not pass, Smith asked Dean about the fate of the current legislation: "Should they [Democrats] start over from scratch or should they go and find what's salvageable?" Dean responded: "I'd run it through the reconciliation program. You know, the Republicans are using this as a tactic to kill health care to embarrass the President. That's not the right thing to do for America....we can't get the whole thing, but I think we can get some good stuff done before the election."

Smith began the interview by bluntly wondering: "Is health care dead?" Dean replied: "I don't think so. I think the American people want health care reform....[they] really do want us to do something about this."

Here is a full transcript of the interview:

HARRY SMITH: Also in Washington this morning is Howard Dean, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Dr. Dean, how are you this morning? HOWARD DEAN: I'm very well, thank you.

SMITH: Is health care dead?

DEAN: I don't think so. I think the American people want health care reform. What they didn't want was something that was written by the insurance industries. And you know, it was - this is a very Washington-centered proposal that finally came over to the House. And so I think they'll try again, put something in there that the American people want. The American people really do want us to do something about this.

SMITH: The last time we talked, you said they should start over. Should they start over from scratch or should they go and find what's salvageable? Say, for instance, making it illegal for insurances to deny protection to people with pre-existing conditions?

DEAN: Well, you just heard John Boehner, the minority leader, say that they weren't going to vote for anything that we proposed. I would go back and do that, though. And I'd run it through the reconciliation program. You know, the Republicans are using this as a tactic to kill health care to embarrass the President. That's not the right thing to do for America. America does need some real insurance reforms. You could simply expand the Medicare program that everybody knows to people who are over 55 instead of 65. The House and the Senate passed very good expansions in Medicaid, which helps young people, for example, and hard working people who can't - work for people with no insurance. Those are the kinds of things that you can do. And we can run those through reconciliation. The chairman of the Budget Committee in the Senate has already said he'd be willing to look at some things in the budget bill. I think we can get some decent - we can't get the whole thing, but I think we can get some good stuff done before the election.

SMITH: Am I being Pollyanna to think that after all of this effort was put into this and now it doesn't seem to be working, that both sides could sit down together and say 'what do we really have in common?' and work together to form something that might be palatable to - to help the 40 some million that don't have insurance or the vast majority of other folks who are one medical catastrophe away from bankruptcy?

DEAN: Well, I always think that's worth trying. The President's tried awfully hard to get even one Republican to support this. They believe if they obstruct this agenda that they can benefit from it and I think that's wrong for the country, but the Republicans have always been great at opposition, never very good at leadership. And so if we can work with the Republicans, we'd sure like to, but we've had our hand out for six months and they've had no interest. I think we just need to get this done for the American people.

SMITH: Dr. Howard Dean, Governor Dean, thank you very much for your time this morning. Do appreciate it, sir.

DEAN: Thank you.

-Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center.