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Progressives Should Not Follow Kucinich on Health Care

I don't blame Dennis Kucinich for changing his mind and deciding to vote for Obama's health care reform bill.

The bill does have its merits: It greatly expands Medicaid coverage, it increases funding for community health centers, and it subsidizes people who don't have a lot of money to buy health care insurance. And depending on the fine print, the bill may end discrimination against people with preexisting conditions.

Plus, Obama and the Democratic leadership were putting enormous pressure on him, and I'm sure he didn't want to hand the Republicans an undeserved trophy.

But the bill is still grossly inadequate, as Kucinich himself recognizes.

The bill is still a giant giveaway to the insurance companies, as Kucinich has said many times.

The bill is nowhere near as good as single-payer, which Kucinich has campaigned for time and time again.

Most of the benefits of the bill would kick in until 2014.

And the bill does a grave disservice to women, not only by restricting abortion coverage but by allowing insurance companies to discriminate in their pricing against women, as Dr. Sheila Levitt of Physicians for a National Health Program recently wrote.

Even though Kucinich now gives this bill his blessing, that doesn't mean that all progressive citizens need to follow suit.

Howard Zinn, a couple of years before he died, put the issue perfectly:

"When a social movement adopts the compromises of legislators, it has forgotten its role, which is to push and challenge the politicians, not to fall meekly behind them," he wrote.

He added: "The mantra ‘the best we can get' is a recipe for corruption. We are not politicians, but citizens. We have no office to hold on to, only our consciences."

So let's hold on to our consciences and demand better.

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