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Democrats strip single-payer healthcare proposal from health overhaul

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A government-run healthcare program may become an “option” for those who don’t have employer-sponsored healthcare coverage, but a government-run healthcare system will not.

House Democratic leaders quietly stripped a single-payer provision from the House version of the healthcare overhaul Thursday. The measure would have allowed states to set up their own state-run healthcare systems, where local governments would have become de facto health insurers for residents.

A Democratic aide told Roll Call that there was “consensus” to remove the provision, which was proposed by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and inserted by a majority vote in the House Education and Labor Committee.

“The fact is, the majority of the Democratic Caucus agreed that the most effective way forward was through a competitive marketplace coupled with strong consumer protections and the choice of a public option,” Education and Labor Committee spokesman Aaron Albright remarked.

Kucinich’s amendment had been added to the bill in a bipartisan 27-19 vote in the Education and Labor Committee. While supported by liberals, the measure would likely have been a “poison pill” for the overhaul bill, where Democrats have struggled to round up votes for a “robust” public option.

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Kucinich said he was disappointed by the House leaders’ move.

“Today, advocates of true health care reform were disappointed to learn that the Kucinich amendment was removed from the latest version of the health care reform bill,” Kucinich said in a statement. “At the end of the day, states may be given the option to opt out, but won’t be allowed to opt into a proven system that provides all of a state’s residents with better health care.

“Many states are demanding single payer,” he added. “The Lewin Group’s financial analysis of the California single payer bill that passed the legislature twice found that ‘the net cost of the program to state and local governments is a savings of about $900 million’ in 2006 alone. There are also strong single payer movements in Pennsylvania , New York , Illinois , Colorado , and New Mexico.”

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Facing the intransigence of Republicans to support any version of Democratic healthcare reform, the party has had to cater to its conservative and moderate wings to round up the necessary support to get the bill passed. Concessions have generally involved the watering-down of attempts to create a government-run competitor to private insurance companies.

Kucinich said he could “only conclude” his amendment was taken out of the bill “because of pressure from the insurance companies,” though moderate Democrats’ resistance to such a wide-ranging proposal seems equally plausible.

“If a state wants better health care than can be provided by the federal government in the health care bill we are seeing today, the federal government should not stand in their way,” the congressman said. “The removal of the Kucinich amendment constitutes yet another capitulation to the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries who are already reaping billions of dollars from the bill.”

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Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom all have single payer government run healthcare plans. The United States’ healthcare system — where private insurance companies control the market — is largely an anomaly among developed Western economies.


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