Health Insurance Reform Not Good Enough for Kucinich

Armen Hareyan's picture

A mammoth-sized healthcare reform bill barely squeaked by the House of Representatives. It intends to provide health insurance to the majority of Americans through new programs and regulations. Nearly 40 Democratic representatives refused to vote for the bill; most of them are from conservative districts and believe a bill that includes the public option is too radical. Representative Dennis Kucinich stands out among the objectors, because he feels that Speaker Nancy Pelosi's bill doesn't go far enough. Kucinich has been a staunch liberal during his time in Congress, often crafting progressive proposals that receive little attention.

Why didn't he follow the lead of the House's other liberal Democrats and hold his nose to vote for a bill that isn't ideal? Most importantly, Kucinich believes that for-profit health insurance companies are the main reason for the rash of uninsured Americans. Therefore, he doesn't support a bill that allows them to survive. The mandate that requires everyone to buy a health insurance plan is even more distasteful to him; according to Kucinich, the current bill serves as a giveaway to health insurers by forcing millions of Americans into the market without changing their fundamental business model.

For that reason, Kucinich is also not a fan of the subsidies established for lower- and middle-income individuals and families to buy private health insurance plans. By his estimate, taxpayers will be bailing out the health insurance companies to the tune of $70 billion in annual revenue.


Kucinich has a different plan for how healthcare reform should proceed. In his opinion, a European-style single-payer health insurance system is the solution for lowering costs while maintaining quality of care. The weakened public option included in the House's bill--which will potentially cover just six million Americans, as opposed to 129 million--won't be able to do that, according to Kucinich. He may be hedging in the case that the public option does not result in increased competition for private insurers, but that is less likely to occur with someone who voted against the bill.

He even proposed a bill in the House that would allow individual states to establish single-payer health insurance programs on their own, after realizing that what amounts to the public option for everyone wouldn't fly. The Obama administration, which has expressed support for a government-provided single payer system in the past, removed it from the bill. Throughout his political career, Rep. Kucinich has always followed his ideology, for better or worse. President Obama, on the other hand, has shown more pragmatism. This has led to this instance of butting heads between Obama and Kucinich--the former thinks that any reform of the health insurance industry is better than nothing, while the latter refuses to settle for less than his ideal for America: the toppling of the private health insurance industry.

Unfortunately for Kucinich, he is unlikely to win his battle. He expressed similar views on healthcare reform when he was running for the Democratic presidential nomination, both in 2004 and 2008. Kucinich has consistently been on the left of politicians as well as the public on this issue. Although any legislator voting with their conscience is a positive occurrence, Kucinich's objection probably won't change the fate of healthcare reform in the Senate. If anything, it is more likely that the Senate version is even less comprehensive and more conservative than that of the House. Most other liberal congresspersons are afraid to stand with him, even if they agree with his opinions. After all, the nation has been subjected to years of scare tactics regarding the horror stories of socialized healthcare in countries such as Canada, Great Britain, and France--some accurate, some exaggerated. While Kucinich has been re-elected in his Ohio district (with consistently progressive views) for over a decade, many other Democrats don't share his job security.

Written by Yamileth Medina
VitalOne Health Plans Direct, LLC.