DEAN PLEASED WITH COMPROMISE, FOR NOW…. About a week ago, Howard Dean argued that a health care bill without a public option “is worthless and should be defeated.”

Now that Senate Democrats have endorsed a compromise measure that scales back the public option to a trigger — in exchange for Medicare buy-in and the OPM plan — is Dean still on board with the reform effort? Actually, yes.

In a boost for the Senate health care deal reached yesterday, Howard Dean said in an interview with me moments ago that the current compromise contains “real reform,” and said that as it stands now, progressives could support it.

Dean also confirmed various details about the deal that he’d learned in direct conversations with Senators involved in the discussions — detail that news orgs had mostly attributed to anonymous sources. Dean’s general support for the bill could give it a boost among progressives who say it falls short of real reform.

Dean seems to feel pretty strongly about this, making the rounds this morning to tout his (conditional) support for the new deal.

He told Sam Stein the Medicare buy-in, in particular, is “a big step forward.” Dean added, “The criteria that I use to evaluate the various proposals is; ‘Is it reform?’ And this is reform.”

As for criticism from the left, Dean called the deal “incrementalism in the right direction,” adding, “There will be people disappointed with it. There are parts that I’m disappointed with. But this is real and a big step forward.”

Dean is not, however, without concern. He’s heard, for example, that those eligible for the Medicare buy-in won’t receive subsidies. If that’s true — I haven’t seen this reported elsewhere — it would be a real problem. Indeed, it wouldn’t even make sense — why make subsidies available for more expensive private insurance, but not more affordable Medicare?

And while some unanswered questions remain important, Dean is nevertheless encouraged by what he’s seen. Given that the physician and former governor is widely considered a credible, progressive champion on health care reform, Dean’s preliminary support should help the effort.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.