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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.”

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