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Kucinich's Brave Health Vote vs. Obama's Failed Promise

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There were plenty of cowardly votes in the House last night but there was only one truly brave one. The unsung hero of the night was Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich. Despite enormous pressure to support H.R. 3962, Rep. Kucinich did the right thing and voted 'no.' Unlike the Blue Dog votes against the bill, he did it for all the right reasons.

In a principled and practical statement, Rep. Kucinich said what a growing number of progressives have realized as we've watched real health care reform be compromised again and again.

During the debate, when the interests of insurance companies would have been effectively challenged, that challenge was turned back. The "robust public option" which would have offered a modicum of competition to a monopolistic industry was whittled down from an initial potential enrollment of 129 million Americans to 6 million. An amendment which would have protected the rights of states to pursue single-payer health care was stripped from the bill at the request of the Administration. Looking ahead, we cringe at the prospect of even greater favors for insurance companies.

Personally, I supported President Obama in the primaries and the election but do not support him on this corporate giveaway built on broken campaign promises. I voted for the Barack Obama who opposed the individual mandate, who said the negotiations would be televised on C-SPAN and who campaigned against backroom deals with PhARMA.

Conservatives have expressed outrage for months about the way the health care bill was handled. Their anti-government anger is misplaced because the lets the insurances and drug companies who really helped drive this bill off the hook. But I understand their sense that this bill was passed despite the people.

Progressives should be every bit as upset that President Obama lied to us to get his historic health bill. The citizens of this country did not have a seat at the table. Proponents of single payer didn't have a seat at the table. Under the guise of health care reform, we watched as the insurance industry got a bill passed that entrenches and enriches them.

Don't let anyone fool you that this bill is a good start. It's got a poison pill "Public Option" that is designed to fail. As the brilliant RJ Eskow wrote recently about the House bill's public option:

The plan will have low enrollment and little power to negotiate, causing the CBO to state as fact what I've long considered possible: That the public option could become a dumping ground where private plans jettison sicker people, while lacking the efficiencies of scale or negotiating power to get better rates or administer itself more economically.

As a result, says the CBO, a public plan's premiums might be higher than private insurance. While the CBO's word isn't gospel, it's entirely possible that they're underestimating the cost of any "public option" we're likely to see this year. The likeliest political outcome, once the House and Senate bills are combined, is a non-robust "public option" with a state-by-state opt out. The CBO didn't consider the opt-out when it came up with its shocking (to some) estimate.

Even if it passes in its weak form, this public option will be the target of the GOP for years and they won't rest until it is dead. As the public option kicks into gear, they will find stories of 'rationing' and denial of care they can highlight, true or not. They will use the higher costs as proof of the public option's folly. They will grind away at the public option relentlessly but they will leave the individual mandate alone. If anything, once the mandate is in place, the Republicans will make sure the insurance industry is 'free to compete' and unrestricted.

The corporate interests that spend millions to influence the media and both political parties want you to ignore Congressman Kucinich. Too many Democrats unwittingly help them. Don't be a patsy.

People like Dennis Kucinich, Ralph Nader and Michael Moore have been made pariahs by establishment Democrats. They have all been marginalized and made fun of...but check their records. They have been considered 'fringe' because they are telling us the truth about corporate abuses of power long before most of the rest of us catch up to the reality of what's happened.

If enough of us stand with Dennis Kucinich, maybe we'll actually get real health care reform. If we don't, maybe we don't deserve that reform.

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