DATE: 29 Aug. 2009
TO: My Political E-Mail List
SUBJECT: Sen. Kennedy’s Real Stand on Health Care Reform
Although some on the Right are not disguising their sheer contempt for the late, great Sen. Ted Kennedy and all that he — and we — stood for, others are more insidious in their attack upon him and his legacy, with claims — often echoed, unchallenged in some of the mainstream media — that if only Sen. Kennedy were still around, then they would then be able to compromise, as with their oft-repeated call for sacrificing on the altar of compromise the public option — so feared and loathed by the health insurance industry, making huge profits without a non-profit competitor.
A willingness to compromise, if only Kennedy were here, is being claimed even by Sen. John McCain and Sen. Orrin Hatch, both of whom voted against the very bill that came out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, which Sen. Kennedy himself chaired, even though the “bill includes more than 160 Republican amendments accepted during the month-long mark-up, one of the longest in Congressional history.”
To set the record straight — on this historic legislation, the “cause of my life” for the late Sen. Kennedy (even though he and his family would never want for quality health care) — you may read for yourself the complete summary of the Senate HELP Committee bill here ...
... with statements from all the Democratic members of the Committee, including Sen. Kennedy himself. Let no one continue to put words in his mouth or twist his cause to their ends, to defeat or gut that very cause; here briefly, is what Committee Chairman Kennedy said, for the record ...
“I could not be prouder of our Committee. We have done the hard work that the American people sent us here to do. We have considered hundreds of proposals. Where we have been able to reach principled compromise, we have done so. Where we have not been able to resolve our differences, we have treated those with whom we disagree with respect and patience.”
Moreover note, again for the record, that the Senate HELP Committee plan, like that from the House, includes a strong public option, to compete with — and thus help bring down the costs of — private insurance plans. Here is what the HELP Committee press release states, about the public option and the other key features of their plan, which should be the defining virtues of the final bill — “The Kennedy Affordable Health Choices Act,” if you will — approved by both Houses of Congress and signed by President Obama, who promised Sen. Kennedy to make health care reform a top priority of his new administration:
“The Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee today passed The Affordable Health Choices Act, landmark legislation that will reduce health costs, protect individuals’ choice in doctors and plans, and assure quality and affordable heath care for Americans. The bipartisan bill includes more than 160 Republican amendments accepted during the month-long mark-up, one of the longest in Congressional history.
“The legislation builds on the existing employer-based system and strengthens it. If an individual likes the health insurance he or she has, they get to keep it. The bill provides better choices for those with no coverage now, and those for whom coverage is unaffordable. The legislation also gives small businesses better options for high value health coverage.
“Under the insurance reforms in The Affordable Health Choices Act, no American can be denied health coverage because of a preexisting medical condition, or have that coverage fail to help them when they need it most. No American will ever again be subject to annual or lifetime limits on their coverage, or see it terminated arbitrarily to avoid paying claims.
“Moreover, the bill reduces health care costs through stronger prevention, better quality of care and use of information technology. It also roots out fraud and abuse, reduces unnecessary procedures and creates a system that allows everyone to obtain insurance thereby gaining access to doctors, medication and procedures essential for prevention and disease management. By sharing in this responsibility, these nearly 50 million uninsured Americans will avoid eleventh-hour treatment in emergency rooms that drive up costs for everyone else.
“Shared responsibility requires that everyone — government, insurance companies, medical providers, individuals and employers — has a part in solving America’s health care crisis. The Affordable Health Choices Act requires those businesses which do not provide coverage for their workers to contribute to the cost of providing publicly sponsored coverage for those workers. It includes an exception for small businesses.
“The bill also includes a strong public option that responds to the wishes of the American people to have a clear alternative to for-profit insurance companies. Like private insurance plans The Community Health Insurance Option will be available through the American Health Benefit Gateway, a new way for individuals and small employers to find and purchase quality and affordable health insurance in every state.”
As Sen. Kennedy said about our progressive efforts overall, “the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”
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