Senator Kennedy’s legacy cannot be defined within one issue, no matter how important. But it would not be an understatement to say that his life’s work revolved around health care for all. He said so himself, calling it “the cause of [his] life” in a passionate Newsweek op-ed published just last month.
True to form, Kennedy turned his passion into real results. The list of health care legislative accomplishments he was part of is stunning. From the website set up by his family dedicated in his honor:
- In 1966, Kennedy helped establish the community health center model in the United States. Community health centers are now serving 20 million low-income Americans around the country.
- In 1985, Kennedy led the fight to enact COBRA, giving workers the ability to purchase health care through their employer after they have been let go from their job.
- In 1996, Kennedy co-sponsored HIPPAA, which now ensures access to health care coverage for an estimated 25 million Americans who move from one job to another, are self-employed or have pre-existing medical conditions.
- In 1997, Kennedy was instrumental in passing the CHIP program that gives health care to millions of children.
- In 2006, Kennedy passed the Family Opportunity Act, which provides states with the opportunity to expand Medicaid coverage to children with special needs, giving low- and middle-income families with disabled children the opportunity to purchase health coverage under Medicaid.
- From 1997-2008, Kennedy helped grant Massachusetts the Medicaid waivers it needed to pass its state health care reform plan.
- In 2008, Kennedy enacted legislation to reform the inequities in the way mental health and substance use disorders are treated by the insurance industry, a 10 year battle.
- And finally, in 2009 under his leadership and the leadership of his close friend, Senator Chris Dodd, Kennedy passed the Affordable Health Choices Act – which would give everyone in America a guarantee of quality, affordable health care – through the Senate committee he chaired, the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. The bill awaits a vote by the Senate as the health reform process moves forward.
Senator Kennedy’s towering vision for health care was built on his numerous accomplishments. While there is sadness in knowing Senator Kennedy won’t be with us to see his life’s work completed, we will keep him in our thoughts as our fight continues and we finally achieve quality, affordable health care for all this year.
About the Author: Jason Rosenbaum is a writer and musician currently residing in Washington D.C. He is interested in the intersection of politics and culture, media consolidation issues, and making sense out of our foreign policy disasters. He currently works for Health Care for America Now and he is also the webmaster for The Seminal.
This article originally appeared on the Health Care for America NOW! Blog on August 27, 2009 and is reprinted here with permission from the author.
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