With the passing of Senator Ted Kennedy, much will be made of his famous family, and his longstanding efforts to pass comprehensive health reform and universal coverage, including taking a major leadership role this year, despite his brain cancer.
He did sponsor various efforts at health reform in previous years and era. In our national rememberance, it should not go unnoticed the bills he did help pass into law, that make a difference in people’s lives today: Sen. Kennedy led efforts to pass COBRA and HIPAA so those leaving job-based coverage could keep it, the Ryan White AIDS Care Act, the Mental Health Parity Act, and the State Child Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to cover low-income kids.
There’s a historic picture in my colleague Beth Abbott’s office of President Johnson signing Medicare over 40 years ago, with an elderly President Truman, who had championed universal health care a generation earlier, looking on. It is sad that Senator Kennedy won’t join President Clinton when President Obama signs health reform this year.
Health reform can and should pass on its own merits, not to eulogize anyone. But Senator Kennedy’s career is a testament that such reforms can have direct, powerful, meaningful improvements in people’s lives.