Sunday, July 19, 2009

House Panel Votes to Let States Adopt Single-Payer Health Coverage

Federally sponsored single-payer health care might be off the table as Congress debates its health reform strategy this summer, but if some House lawmakers get their way, there would be nothing to prevent states from offering that model.

The House Education & Labor Committee voted today in favor of an amendment, sponsored by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), eliminating legal barriers that might prevent states from adopting a Medicare-style system of health coverage.

The 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 vote is largely symbolic. Cash-strapped states likely won’t be able to rustle up the funding to cover all their residents without federal help, even if they did support the concept politically. Still, some health care groups are cheering the House vote nonetheless. The California Nurses Association, for example, issued a statement calling the vote “a historic moment for patients.”

If the provision were to become law, CNA argues, single-payer supporters could move their lobbying battle from Washington to state capitals.

Kucinich offered his own take on the significance of the push.

“By getting rid of the for-profit insurance companies,” the Ohio liberal said in a statement, “we can save $400 billion per year and provide coverage for all medically necessary services for everyone in the U.S.”

Source: The Washington Independent

From Representative Kucinich:
The amendment propels the growing single payer health care movement at the state level. There are at least ten states which have active single payer efforts in their legislatures. They are California, Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington. The amendment mandates a single payer state will receive the right to waive the application of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), which has in the past been used to nullify efforts to exjavascript:void(0)pand state or local government health care.

Under the Kucinich Amendment a state's application for a waiver from ERISA is granted automatically if the state has signed into law a single payer plan. With the amendment, for the first time, the state single payer health care option is shielded from an ERISA-based legal attack. Now that the underlying bill has been passed, as amended, by the full committee, we must make sure that Congress knows that we want the provision kept in the bill at final passage!

The state single payer option was one of five major amendments which I obtained support to get included in HR3200. One amendment brings into standard coverage for the first time complementary and alternative medicine, (integrative medicine). Another amendment drives down the cost of prescription drugs by ending pharmaceutical industry's sharp practices manipulating physician prescribing habits. An amendment stops the insurance industry from increasing premiums at the time when people are not permitted to change health plans; and finally an amendment imposing a requirement on insurance companies that they disclose the cost of advertising, marketing and executive compensation expenses (which generally divert money from patient care).

Please make sure you post this message on your social networking sites, ask all your friends to get involved and encourage everyone you know to sign up at so we can build full momentum behind this movement for real health care.

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