While imperfect, a health reform bill before US lawmakers would achieve many of the goals championed by the late senator Edward Kennedy, his widow said Saturday.
The “liberal lion” of the Senate, who died in August after losing a battle to brain cancer, believed that “this year the stars — and competing interests — were finally aligned to allow our nation to move forward with fundamental reform,” Victoria Kennedy wrote in The Washington Post.
“The bill before the Senate, while imperfect, would achieve many of the goals Ted fought for during the 40 years he championed access to quality, affordable health care for all Americans.”
Lawmakers have been at loggerheads to pass legislation to enact health care reform before Christmas to extend coverage to some 31 million Americans out of the roughly 36 million who currently lack it, while curbing soaring costs and improving the quality of care.
But even Ted Kennedy, who had made health care reform the cause of his life, acknowledged that achieving that goal would be “difficult” and would require compromises, according to his widow.
“He knew from experience, he told me, that this kind of opportunity to enact health-care reform wouldn’t arise again for a generation,” she warned in her opinion article, which was dated Sunday but available on the newspaper’s website.
“Ted often said that we can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. He also said that it was better to get half a loaf than no loaf at all, especially with so many lives at stake.”
Kennedy, who served over 40 years in the US Senate, worked with late Republican president Richard Nixon to strike consensus on health care reform, efforts that eventually broke down.
Former Democratic president Bill Clinton’s health care plan ended in a disastrous defeat in the 1990s, dealing a hammer blow to his young presidency.
Vicky Kennedy urged lawmakers to put aside heated passions — over, for example, a so-called “public option” government insurance plan — and focus on the historic opportunity to finally pass sweeping reform of America’s embattled health care system.
If the bill passes, “health care would finally be a right, and not a privilege, for the citizens of this country,” she said.
“I humbly ask his colleagues to finish the work of his life, the work of generations, to allow the vote to go forward and to pass health-care reform now. As Ted always said, when it’s finally done, the people will wonder what took so long.”