Thursday, May 28, 2009

Ted Kennedy's Health Manifesto

For the coming political battle, the last Kennedy of his generation is sounding the trumpet for health care reform.

"Over the last year," he writes in a Boston Globe OpEd today, "I've seen our healthcare system up close. I've benefitted from the best of medicine, but I've also witnessed the frustration and outrage of patients and doctors alike as they face the challenges of a system that shortchanges millions of Americans."

In his manifesto, Kennedy hits all the notes of Obama's proposal for change and, albeit in a somewhat tentative way, for the highest of all. After promising more transparency in health insurance plans, negotiation for lower premiums and regulation to prevent denial of coverage for previously existing conditions, Kennedy writes:

"We're also hearing that some Americans want the choice of enrolling in a health insurance program backed by the government for the public good, not private profit--so that option will be available too."

That wording presages the crucial struggle to include a Medicare-for-all provision in the bill that would put pressure on private insurers to compete in the health care market instead of maximizing their profits.

Since his medical crisis last summer, Ted Kennedy has been fighting his own battle to survive. Now he clearly intends to leave a legacy that will give other Americans better odds in theirs.

"Change," he concludes, "is never easy, but the status quo is no longer acceptable to any except those who profit from the current broken healthcare system.

"We cannot afford to wait--or to fail. And we will do neither.

"And when successful reform takes hold, the American people will wonder what has taken us so long."

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