Why anti-capitalist Democrat voted against Obama's health care plans

Marc Wadsworth

What you won't have seen in the big media is that a former contender for the Democratic Party's nomination won by Barack Obama voted against the American leader's much trumpeted health care reform plans. Left-wing Ohio representative Dennis Kucinich said he could not support the proposed new law because it did not break with the discredited "for-profit" US system dominated by the fat cat insurance firms.

Kucinich said: “We have been led to believe that we must make our health care choices only within the current structure of a predatory, for-profit insurance system which makes money not providing health care.  We cannot fault the insurance companies for being what they are.  But we can fault legislation in which the government incentivises the perpetuation, indeed the strengthening, of the for-profit health insurance industry."

He added: "When health insurance companies deny care or raise premiums, co-pays and deductibles (find ways not to pay up on policies) they are simply trying to make a profit.  That is our system. Clearly, the insurance companies are the problem, not the solution.  They are driving up the cost of health care.  Because their massive bureaucracy avoids paying bills so effectively, they force hospitals and doctors to hire their own bureaucracy to fight the insurance companies to avoid getting stuck with an unfair share of the bills."

Kucinich pointed out that since 1970, the number of doctors had increased by less than 200 per cent while the number of administrators had gone up by an astounding 3000 per cent.  He asked whether it was any wonder that 31 cents of every health care dollar went to administrative costs, not toward providing care.  

In this situation, he said: "Even those with insurance are at risk. The single biggest cause of bankruptcies in the US is health insurance policies that do not cover you when you get sick."

But the Obama administration, one of whose central policy planks before its election was reform of America's broken healthcare system, refused to effectively take on the powerful insurance companies.

Kucinich said that House of Representatives Bill proposing change "would put the government in the role of accelerating the privatisation of health care". He explained that the government was requiring at least 21 million Americans to buy private health insurance from the very industry that causes costs to be so high, which would result in at least $70 billion in new annual revenue, much of which from taxpayers.  This would "inevitably lead to even more costs, more subsidies, and higher profits for insurance companies - a bailout under a blue cross (the health care symbol)".  

He went on: “By incurring only a new requirement to cover pre-existing conditions, a weakened public option, and a few other important but limited concessions, the health insurance companies are getting quite a deal.  The Centre for American Progress’ blog, Think Progress, states “since the President signalled that he is backing away from the public option, health insurance stocks have been on the rise.”  

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 six million.  An amendment, which would have protected the rights of states to pursue single-payer health care (like Britain's state-run National Health Service), was stripped from the bill at the request of Obama's administration.  

Kucinich commented: "Looking ahead, we cringe at the prospect of even greater favours for insurance companies. Recent rises in unemployment indicate a widening separation between the finance economy and the real economy.  The finance economy considers the health of Wall Street, rising corporate profits, and banks’ hoarding of cash, much of it from taxpayers, as sign of an economic recovery. However in the real economy - in which most Americans live - the recession is not over.  Rising unemployment, business failures, bankruptcies and foreclosures are still hammering Main Street."

He added: “This health care bill continues the redistribution of wealth to Wall Street at the expense of America’s manufacturing and service economies which suffer from costs other countries do not have to bear, especially the cost of health care.   America continues to stand out among all industrialised nations for its privatised health care system.  As a result, we are less competitive in steel, automotive, aerospace and shipping while other countries subsidise their exports in these areas through socialising the cost of health care."

But Kucinich sounded a note of optimism when he said that, whatever happened with current health care reform plans, "America will someday come to recognise the broad social and economic benefits of a not-for-profit, single-payer health care system, which is good for the American people and good for America’s businesses" with the notable exception of insurance and pharmaceutical firms.

Opponents of Obama's proposed health care reform claim it would lead to public spending spiralling out of control and that it is the thin end of the wedge of "socialist" government control. They have attempted to rubbish Britain's NHS as an example of what they are against.

Liberal Democrats are angry that their party leadership have caved in to opponents of a woman's right to choose, who won an amendment cutting off government funding for abortions in the healthcare plans. The pro-abortion politicians say Congress has sold out women.

Progressive Congressman John  Conyers has tabled legislation to make health care a constitutional right for Americans. Unfortunately, his proposal stands no chance of becoming law because of right-wing opposition including in his own Democratic party.

Here's what famed Sicko filmmaker Michael Moore, flanked by Kucinich and Conyers, told US politicians who have taken a principled stand: