Kucinich renews pitch for a universal plan



The Cleveland Democrat's proposal is a keystone of his presidential campaign.
CLEVELAND (AP) -- U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, whose anti-war views have gained wider acceptance since he ran for president in 2004, hopes a similar public opinion shift will boost chances for enacting universal health care.
Kucinich, a Cleveland Democrat making his second run for the presidency, was one of 42 co-sponsors of a bill reintroduced by Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., Conyers aide Alexia Smokler said.
Trying to distance himself from fellow Democratic presidential candidates on the issue, Kucinich said the proposal introduced Wednesday would be the "only bill in Congress that would assure universal health-care coverage [and] control cost."
In 2004, Kucinich posted single digits in most primary elections, including Ohio, but stayed in the race until days before John Kerry was nominated by Democrats at their convention.
In a "Dear colleague" letter Monday, Conyers and Kucinich said the latest version of the bill had been revised to specify that the payroll tax that would help finance the plan would be progressive, meaning the rich pay more.
President Bush, facing a Democratic-controlled Congress on Tuesday night in his State of the Union address, proposed making health insurance more widely affordable by taxing high-premium, employer-provided health plans while giving a tax deduction to other workers.
Reaction to Bush's plan split along partisan lines.
What Dems said
Democrats argued the plan could encourage employers to drop insurance or healthy workers to opt out of workplace plans, driving prices higher. Rep. John Shadegg, R-Ariz., said the Bush plan "will enable every American to access affordable health care on the same terms."
Kucinich said Bush was using tax laws to address health-care issues. "The president should not be looking to the tax code to fix the lack of affordable health care," Kucinich said.
Kucinich said his proposal, a keystone of his White House campaign, "would provide coverage for all medically necessary procedures including dental care, mental health care, long-term care and prescription drug coverage."
The business-supported National Association of Manufacturers opposes a universal health-care system. "We believe private-market solutions are superior," spokeswoman Kat Snodgrass said.
Dale Miller, a Cleveland Democrat who holds the Ohio Senate seat that Kucinich once held, said public opinion was moving in the direction of Kucinich's universal health-care ideas. "I think sentiment is continually moving in that direction," he said by phone from Columbus.

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