[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/03/17/art.kuchinich.0317g.gi.jpg caption ="Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich announced Wednesday that he would vote to support Democratic health care legislation."]Washington (CNN) - Health care reform advocates inched closer to victory Wednesday morning as a high-profile liberal Democrat switched his position and announced his intention to vote for a sweeping $875 billion plan under consideration in the House of Representatives.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, said he believes "health care is a civil right." He had previously characterized the bill, which passed the Senate in December, as little more than a boondoggle for private insurers.
Kucinich was publicly lobbied for his vote by President Barack 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.
"The president's visit to my district ... underscored the urgency of this vote," Kucinich said. "I have doubts about the bill ... [but] I've decided to cast a vote in favor of the legislation."
He said he ultimately had "to make a decision on the bill as it is, not on the bill as I'd like to see it."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, needs 216 votes from her 253-member caucus to pass the measure. No Republicans are expected to back it.
A number of House Democrats have refused to state their voting intentions publicly. Twenty-six House Democrats, however, have indicated they will join Republicans in opposing the Senate plan. Included in that total are five House Democrats who said Tuesday that they will vote against the Senate legislation.
That puts opponents of reform 12 votes shy of the 216 needed to prevent Obama from scoring a major victory on his top domestic priority.
- CNN's Charles Riley, Alan Silverleib, Jeff Simon and Robert Yoon contributed to this report