Is Howard Dean reclaiming the populist crown? The former presidential candidate and governor of Vermont appeared on Air America’s Bill Press radio show and blasted the ObamaCare bill — in both its House and Senate forms. During the interview, Dean insisted that the current efforts did nothing to control costs, and amounted to nothing more than a bailout for the insurance companies. He urged progressives in Congress to oppose the bill, especially if the public option gets stripped out. And he said, “Republicans are right about the rhetoric of this bill” (via Instapundit):

DEAN: There is something worse than passing no bill. This bill isn’t very strong. In fact, the only piece of reform left in it is the public option. The insurance reform is gone, essentially, because what they did is they have guaranteed issue — they have to, er, the insurance company has to ensure you — the problem is they don’t have community rating any more. They, they, they, the Senate bill, I think, charges three or four times as much for sick people as they do for healthy people, and the House bill is twice as much. …

DEAN: You know, we did this ten or fifteen years ago in Vermont, and you can charge 20% more for your most expensive clients as you can for your cheapest clients, and that’s it. Now if you can afford to buy health insurance if it’s 20% above the bottom price, but you can’t afford to buy health insurance if it’s twice as much or three times as much, so guaranteed issue doesn’t do you any good unless you have real community rating. Real community rating doesn’t exist in either the House or the Senate bill, so the old argument, which I used to make, was that we ought to pass this thing just to get the insurance reform. There isn’t any insurance reform left in this bill to speak of. …

DEAN: You know, what this is is a giant bail-out. This is a bail-out that makes AIG look cheap. Sixty billion dollars a year go to the insurance companies under this bill. Now if we can get a public option, I think that’s OK, but if you don’t have a public option, why would you want to stick the taxpayers with yet another bail-out? They bailed out the banks, they bailed out AIG. This is a trillion-dollar bailout. …

DEAN: I would vote with Bernie Sanders. I would vote to kill this bill if it does not have a public option, because that is doing harm to the nation. It’s not just, “Well, there’s some of this” —

PRESS: Yeah.

DEAN: This is a harmful bill to the nation without a public option, because it’s going to take trillions of dollars, billions, well, trillions over several decades from our kids. The Republicans are right about the rhetoric of the bill. But if you get reform, you can fix it. If you don’t get reform, you got the system that we have today, you are gradually going to start uninsuring people, because we are not going to be able to maintain this system. This system does nothing to control costs.

A couple of points are in order here. First, Dean’s notion of capping insurance premium charge rates at a 20% range means that the majority of people will be subsidizing those who are higher risks. If insurance companies are forced to guarantee issue and can only charge 20% higher for those plans to high-risk patients who normally cost them three or four times more than average patients, then insurance companies will simply increase their base rates to make up the difference. Instead of encouraging people to be healthy, the healthy will get heavily penalized. That’s obvious to everyone except populist politicians, apparently.

More importantly, Dean — who was a successful chair of the DNC and supposedly represented the mainstream of the Democratic Party — has now hitched himself to Socialist Bernie Sanders and the progressive wing of the party. Is Dean thinking about a 2012 run predicated on a politically wounded Obama who failed to pass health-care reform?