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Kucinich: I'll still pursue 'Medicare for all'

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Kucinich defends his flip-flop
  • Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, has reversed course and will support Obama plan
  • On "Larry King Live," Kucinich says he still plans to push for single-payer system
  • "I'm not a 'my-way-or-the-highway' kind of guy," Kucinich says
  • Kucinich predicts House vote, which could come this weekend, would be close

(CNN) -- Rep. Dennis Kucinich said Wednesday that he will continue to work toward a single-payer program, despite his decision to reverse course and support President Obama's health care plan.

"This was a detour," the Ohio Democrat told CNN's "Larry King Live."

"I'll work with the president in getting this bill passed and the president has committed to working with me to seeing further health care reforms after this bill is out of the way."

Kucinich has been a strong proponent of what he calls "Medicare for all," but said he was willing to settle for something short of that -- at least in the short term.

"I'm not a 'my-way-or-the-highway' kind of guy," he said. "This is a first step. By no means is this bill the bill that I wanted. I've been highly critical of it, and I don't take back anything I said."

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He predicted that if the plan fails, the ramifications will reverberate for years.

"I doubt that this president or any president in the near future or any Congress in the near future will want to touch anything remotely related to health care."

Kucinich had previously characterized the bill, which cleared the Senate in December, as little more than a boondoggle for private insurers. He was publicly lobbied for his vote by Obama during the president's visit this week to Kucinich's congressional district in Ohio. He told reporters he's had four meetings with Obama to discuss the bill.

Kucinich's decision to change his vote is a good sign, Obama told reporters in the Oval Office. "I told him 'Thank you.' "

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, said she thought Kucinich's switch would make a difference with a large number of liberal activists.

"He's been a supporter of health care for all Americans for a long time," she said. "He has a constituency, and many of those people still don't understand why there isn't a public [option]."

Kucinich predicted that the House vote, which could come this weekend, would be close.

The Democrats' plan is expected to extend insurance coverage to more than 30 million Americans. The Senate bill also would reduce federal deficits by about $118 billion over 10 years, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

Top Republicans contend the plan amounts to an ill-conceived government takeover of the country's health care system, an assertion Kucinich disputed, given that it maintains the private insurance system.

Republicans have also said the plan would do little to slow spiraling medical costs. They also argue it would lead to higher premiums and taxes for middle-class families while resulting in deep Medicare cuts.

Public opinion polls indicate a majority of Americans have turned against the administration's health plan, though individual elements of the proposal remain widely popular.