Former DNC chairman Howard Dean has said he would not support any version of health-care reform that doesn’t have the public option. But he seems to be inching towards accepting the allegedly optionless compromise hammered out behind closed doors by Senate Democrats:

“This is still real reform,” Dean said Wednesday on CBS. He further said, twice, that the Medicare expansion makes more sense than “reinventing another bureaucracy.”

Hmmmm. Politico notes that the new plan is kinda like a public option:

You could argue that another part of the Senate proposal — a national, private non-profit plan run by the federal Office of Personnel Management — is a similar way of breaking the public option impasse. Once again, the government wouldn’t have to create a new entity. If you think about it, that is kind of like a public option, right? Just without the public plan. Or, as MSNBC called it during a Keith Olbermann rant Wednesday night, “Public Optional.”

OPM already runs the Federal Employee Health Benefits Plan, an Internet-based exchange or marketplace where private plans compete for business. It gets good reviews, so maybe OPM can make the market work, Dean told The Huffington Post. He did not seem particularly downhearted at the apparent death of the public option he once insisted upon.

Nor did President Obama. He said the “creative new framework” dreamed up by the Senate constitutes “critical progress” toward passage. Chris Bowers at went so far as to argue that the compromise represents a victory for public option advocates.