In recent days Barack Obama has increased pressure on Congress to pass his healthcare bill before Easter, but one of his former rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination, Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, will not be among those voting for the plan.
The congressman also says the current primary focus on healthcare is misplaced in light of the millions of unemployed and underemployed people around the country.
“The economy is stagnant; we’ve given bailouts to Wall Street, and we haven’t taken care of Main Street,” Kucinich told MSNBC’s Countdown With Keith Olbermann. “The fact the economy is stagnant is really the key issue.”
Kucinch said healthcare is important, but it is not nearly as pressing as getting the economy moving again.
The former presidential candidate told MSNBC he plans to vote against the bill because it “represents a giveaway to the insurance industry” of approximately $70 billion annually. The congressman says he prefers a single-payer system instead of what the president and his party’s leadership want.
“It will not keep a control on premiums, forcing people to buy private health insurance,” Kucinich said. “We have seen five years of double-digit premium increases; I’m sorry, but I do not see that this bill is a solution.
“The insurance companies are the problem, and we are giving them a version of a bailout.”
The former presidential candidate voted against the House version of the healthcare bill last November, when it passed by a 220-215 margin.
Kucinich said his opposition to the healthcare bill has not been a secret to the White House or the Democratic House leadership, due to his longstanding support for a single-payer system.
“The fact is one out of every three healthcare dollars goes for corporate profits, stock options, executive salaries, advertising, marketing and the cost of paperwork,” he said. “This bill doesn’t change that; this bill doesn’t change the fact the insurance companies are going to keep socking it to the consumers.
“So if the White House is willing to go back and have a robust public option … with 125 million people being able to negotiate and knock down premiums, then we have something to talk about.”
Kucinich said the current Obama plan is not much different in his mind than the plan he voted against in November. He criticized the Senate bill, saying it amounts to a redux of the 2003 Medicare prescription drug debate, which he believes equals a massive giveaway of federal tax dollars to health insurance companies.
“You are building a foundation on sand; the insurance companies are the problem,” Kucinich said. “They are nothing to build on; if we build our hopes on the insurance companies all we are going to have is more poverty in this country.”
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