According to Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), the Democrats' health reform legislation is basically a sham.
Appearing on MSNBC's The Ed Show on Friday night, the House's most unabashed progressive condemned Democratic leadership for removing his amendment that would allow states to create their own single-payer systems. Then he called the entire legislative package "a bailout for insurance companies."
Under a single-payer system, like those in Canada and the United Kingdom, the government pools taxpayer funds to pay for citizens' health care and fees are not collected by health care providers. The Kucinich amendment would allow individual states an opt-in to such a system.
The amendment is missing from health reform legislation unveiled Thursday by Democratic leadership.
"Representative Kucinich was livid when he found out that his provision to allow states to create a single payer system was stripped," News Junkie Post noted. "Kucinich’s amendment passed the House Labor and Education Committee in July. 'No one gave me any rational reason,' Kucinich said. 'I can only assume the insurance company interests brought pressure to take it out. Otherwise I would have heard from someone.'"
"The [committee] vote was 25 to 19, with support coming from an odd mix of liberal Democrats who support single-payer on its merits and conservative Republicans who want to preserve the rights of states to regulate themselves," The Washington Independent noted at the time.
"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," reads a statement from the congressman's office on Thursday.
Under the revised public option, "Pelosi and her team have proposed a plan that would not make payments for care based on Medicare rates ..." CBS News's John Nichols noted. "Rather, under the Pelosi plan, the rates be tied to those of the big insurance companies. That's a big, big victory for the insurance industry, as it will undermine the ability of the public option to compete -- and to create pressure for reduced costs."
Speaking to liberal MSNBC anchor Ed Schultz on Friday, Kucinich continued his assault on the legislation.
"I think we need the support of the American people to say, look, you need that state single-payer amendment in the bill to make it credible," the congressman said. "I mean, what are people giving up already? They're being mandated to buy private insurance. If you read the bill, the people are going to end up paying -- the insurance companies can raise rates 25 percent right off the bat, if you read the bill."
Schultz encouraged Kucinich to repeat himself on that point.
"It's on page 22 of the bill," he replied. "Right here, it says that rates shall be set at a level that does not exceed 125 percent of the prevailing standard rate for comparable coverage in the individual market. Now ... It's very easy to understand what that means."
"It's not reform," Schultz insisted.
"It means a 25 percent increase, they'll have the ability to execute and since insurance companies have already raised rates for the last four years by double-digits, we can expect -- based on the bill -- another rate increase by the insurance companies."
Schultz called the bill a "sellout" to insurers because the bill only allows 11 million people into a limited government-run health insurance option, and includes a mandate for Americans to buy private policies.
"Maybe instead of a sellout it's a bailout," Kucinich responded. "Maybe what we're looking at here is another way that Wall Street's speculative engine can be fueled, this time with the help of the premiums of tens of millions of Americans."
On his Web site, Kucinich took his point further, calling the legislation "a bailout for insurance companies" that must be altered.
"The Kucinich [single payer] amendment has been added to H.R. 3200 in the Education and Labor Committee, the amendment would permit states to enact a single-payer health care system," the congressman's Web site claimed.
This video was broadcast by MSNBC on Friday, Oct. 30, 2009.