Morgen on July 21, 2009 at 10:50 am
There has been a lot of maneuvering going on in Congress the last few days over healthcare reform. From all appearances, the legislation appears to be hanging on by a thread due to gathering opposition from moderate Democrats in the House as well as the Senate. The primary concern is the astronomical cost and budget impact of the legislation, but there is also growing opposition to the public plan, which has seen a significant drop-off in support in recent polls. It would be a mistake, however, to underestimate the Administration’s ability to exert political pressure on recalcitrant Democrats, especially in the House. As with the cap and trade bill, expect the Administration and House leadership to pull out all the stops to pass the bill.
However, a little noticed amendment offered by Rep. Kucinich, and adopted by the House Labor Committee late last week, may have made it exponentially harder for the Administration to win over enough support:
Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) today created an opening for the single payer health care movement by winning adoption of an amendment which eliminates a federal barrier to states choosing to enact single payer health plans. The amendment won on a bipartisan basis during lengthy committee action on HR 3200, America’s Affordable Health Choices Act.
“Although the amendment does not create a single payer health care system, it removes a major obstacle for any state that wishes to pursue the single payer option. This amendment builds on the momentum of the national movement for single payer health care,” said Kucinich.
In other words, if the House bill becomes law states will be allowed to create their own single payer systems as an alternative to the new federal health insurance exchange system (which will at least initially include the public plan and private plans).
Now interestingly, as noted above, the amendment passed with bi-partisan support. In fact, more Republicans (13) than Democrats (12) actually voted for it (roll call here). While this was undoubtably an expression of support for states rights by the Republicans on the committee, I think it’s likely that it was also a shrewd political maneuver on the part of the GOP.
The President has said on numerous occasions that under his plan if you like the insurance you have you’ll be able to keep it. The Kucinich amendment of course is in direct contradiction to this, as by definition the implementation of a single-payer system in any state would eliminate private insurance. And while the amendment itself does not establish a single-payer system, it would directly enable individual states to do so, which would ultimately have the same effect.
If you doubt the significance of this amendment, take note that progressive activists are celebrating its adoption by the House Labor Committee (e.g. here, here, and here). Of course they see this as another important foot in the door for their ultimate objective in single-payer. But I wonder if by shifting the House bill even further to the left, the Kucinich amendment hasn’t made it even more difficult for the bill to ultimately garner the support it will need to pass the full House. Stay tuned.