Progressives And Single Payer Advocates Disappointed With House Health Care Bill


House Democrats unveiled their version of health care reform Wednesday. Single payer health care proposals have been shut out as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is backtracking on a promise on a vote for single payer health care. Furthermore, a measure sponsored by Representative Dennis Kucinich of Ohio to allow states implement a single payer system was stripped from the bill.

The bill, reading 1990 pages long, does not include any proposals advocated by single payer advocates. Instead, it includes a limited public option that appeals to conservative Democrats.

Representative Kucinich was livid when he found out that his provision to allow states to create a single payer system was stripped. 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.”

It is also unclear if a vote on a national single payer proposal will still go forward, despite a guarantee by Speaker Pelosi to Representative Anthony Weiner of New York.

Democratic leadership crafted a bill that they thought would pass the house. The new merged bill includes a scaled back public option. It ties reimbursement rates to the market, instead of Medicare.

At least one moderate Democrat Earl Pomeroy of North Dakota is pleased with the more limited public option.

“This was such a core issue to me we were unmovable until we got a fair payment under a public option on a negotiated rates,” Pomeroy said.

But proponents of a robust public option, which would tie reimbursement rates to Medicare, say their version would truly lower the cost of health insurance by slicing through inflated pricing.

Representative Raul Grijalva of Arizona and co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus said he is disappointed. He said the leadership gave in to the moderate Democrats.

“The real crux of this fight where the health insurance companies fought us tooth and nail was a robust public option. And, they won,” Grijalva said.

Both moderate and liberal Democrats admit that House Leadership was about 10 votes shy of being able to pass a robust public option.

Speaker Pelosi called it historic. “It is with great pride and great humility to follow in the footsteps that gave our country Social Security, then Medicare and now universal health care.”

Even though Speaker Pelosi called it universal, about 11 million people are expected to remain uninsured.

The new legislation mandates people buy insurance, as well as employers whose businesses are worth more than $500,000. It also expands Medicaid eligibility to 150% of poverty, or an income of $33,000 for a family of four.

The legislation also closes the insurance industry’s anti-trust exemption and allows people to stay on their parents insurance until 27 years of age. It also prohibits exclusion of coverage due to pre-existing conditions.

Much of the nearly $900 billion bill will be paid for by a surtax on couples making more than a million dollars per year.

Republican Representative Mike Pence of Indiana says the Democrats aren‘t listening to public opinion.

“They want health care reform that lowers the cost of insurance but they didn’t want government run insurance paid for with hundreds of billions of dollars in higher taxes and government mandates,” Pence said.

Progressives say the fight is not over and they will continue to work to change the bill. It is not too late to do so because some things still have to be worked out, including language on abortion.

Democrats hope the bill is ready to come to the floor by the end of next week.


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