Friday, March 19, 2010

Kucinich: Health Care is a Civil Right

Health Care is a Civil Right

by Dennis Kucinich
March 17, 2010

Click here to view video

Each generation has had to take up the question of how to provide for the
health of the people of our nation. And each generation has grappled with
difficult questions of how to meet the needs of our people. I believe health
care is a civil right. Each time as a nation we have reached to expand
our basic rights, we have witnessed a slow and painful unfolding of a
democratic pageant of striving, of resistance, of breakthroughs, of
opposition, of unrelenting efforts and of eventual triumph.

I have spent my life struggling for the rights of working class people and
for health care. I grew up understanding firsthand what it meant for
families who did not get access to needed care. I lived in 21 different
places by the time I was 17, including in a couple of cars. I understand the
connection between poverty and poor health care, the deeper meaning of what
Native Americans have called "hole in the body, hole in the spirit." I
struggled with Crohn's disease much of my adult life, to discover sixteen
years ago a near-cure in alternative medicine and following a plant-based
diet. I have learned with difficulty the benefits of taking charge
personally of my own health care. On those few occasions when I have needed
it, I have had access to the best allopathic practitioners. As a result I
have received the blessings of vitality and high energy. Health and health
care is personal for each one of us. As a former surgical technician I know
that there are many people who dedicate their lives to helping others
improve theirs. I also know their struggles with an insufficient health care

There are some who believe that health care is a privilege based on ability
to pay. This is the model President Obama is dealing with, attempting to
open up health care to another 30 million people, within the context of the
for-profit insurance system. There are others who believe that
health care is a basic right and ought to be provided through a
not-for-profit plan. This is what I have tirelessly advocated.

I have carried the banner of national health care in two presidential
campaigns, in party platform meetings, and as co-author of HR676, Medicare
for All. I have worked to expand the health care debate beyond the current
for-profit system, to include a public option and an amendment to free
the states to pursue single payer. The first version of the health care
bill, while badly flawed, contained provisions which I believed made the
bill worth supporting in committee. The provisions were taken out of the
bill after it passed committee.

I joined with the Progressive Caucus saying that I would not support the
bill unless it had a strong public option and unless it protected the right
of people to pursue single payer at a state level. It did not. I kept my
pledge and voted against the bill. I have continued to oppose it while
trying to get the provisions back into the bill. Some have speculated I may
be in a position of casting the deciding vote. The President's visit to my
district on Monday underscored the urgency of this moment.

I have taken this fight farther than many in Congress cared to carry it
because I know what my constituents experience on a daily basis. Come
to my district in Cleveland and you will understand.

The people of Ohio's 10th district have been hard hit by an economy where
wealth has accelerated upwards through plant closings, massive unemployment,
small business failings,
lack of access to credit, foreclosures and the high cost of health care and
limited access to care. I take my responsibilities to the people of my
district personally.The focus of my district office is constituent service,
which more often than not involves social work to help people survive
economic perils. It also involves intervening with insurance companies.

In the past week it has become clear that the vote on the final health care
bill will be very close. I take this vote with the utmost seriousness. I am
quite aware of the historic fight that has lasted the better part of the
last century to bring America in line with other modern democracies in
providing single payer health care. I have seen the political pressure and
the financial pressure being asserted to prevent a minimal recognition of
this right, even within the context of a system dominated by private
insurance companies.

I know I have to make a decision, not on the bill as I would like to see it,
but the bill as it is. My criticisms of the legislation have been well
reported. I do not retract them. I incorporate them in this statement. They
still stand as legitimate and cautionary. I still have doubts about the
bill. I do not think it is a first step toward anything I have supported in
the past. This is not the bill I wanted to support, even as I continue
efforts until the last minute to modify the bill.

However after careful discussions with the President Obama, Speaker Pelosi,
Elizabeth my wife and close friends, I have decided to cast a vote in favor
of the legislation. If my vote is to be counted, let it now count for
passage of the bill, hopefully in the direction of comprehensive health
care reform. We must include coverage for those excluded from this bill. We
must free the states. We must have control over private insurance companies
and the cost their very existence imposes on American families. We must
strive to provide a significant place for alternative and complementary
medicine, religious health science practice, and the personal responsibility
aspects of health care which include diet, nutrition, and exercise.

The health care debate has been severely hampered by fear, myths, and by
hyper-partisanship. The President clearly does not advocate socialism or a
government takeover of health care. The fear that this legislation has
engendered has deep roots, not in foreign ideology but in a lack of
confidence, a timidity, mistrust and fear which post 911 America has been
unable to shake.

This fear has so infected our politics, our economics and our international
relations that as a nation we are losing sight of the expanded vision, the
electrifying potential we caught a glimpse of with the election of Barack
Obama. The transformational potential of his presidency, and of
ourselves, can still be courageously summoned in ways that will reconnect
America to our hopes for expanded opportunities for jobs, housing,
education, peace, and yes, health care.

I want to thank those who have supported me personally and politically as I
have struggled with this decision. I ask for your continued support in our
ongoing efforts to bring about meaningful change. As this bill passes I will
renew my efforts to help those state organizations which are aimed at
stirring a single payer movement which eliminates the predatory role of
private insurers who make money not providing health care. I have taken a
detour through supporting this bill, but I know the destination I will
continue to lead, for as long as it takes, whatever it takes to an America
where health care will be firmly established as a civil right.

Thank you.

Dennis Kucinich

Re-Elect Congressman Kucinich Committee
PO Box 110475
Cleveland, OH 44111


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