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Health Care Reform Is A Must

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“Quality [health] care shouldn’t depend on your financial resources, or the type of job you have, or the medical condition you face. Every American should be able to get the same treatment that U.S. senators are entitled to.” – Sen. Ted Kennedy

On Tuesday, America lost a political titan in Senator Edward Kennedy when he succumbed to brain cancer at his home in Hyannis, Mass. He served 47 years in the Senate and worked with 10 presidents. It marked what appears to be the end of a political dynasty that was the Kennedy Family.

His remarkable career was dedicated to, as former President Bill  Clinton put it, “working towards a more perfect union.” He held the belief that citizens of this country are engendered with certain rights and guarantees, and if government had the ability to provide them, and if it was appropriate to do so, it should. That’s really the underlying principle of liberalism, a cause he would champion for five decades.

Candidate Barack Obama and Sen. Ted Kennedy

Candidate Barack Obama and Sen. Ted Kennedy

Among those guaranteed rights is health care. Senator Kennedy was a strident believer in health care for all. That core belief has come to define much of his political legacy. He has worked on close to 2,500 different pieces of legislation that covered many areas, and he himself has written over 300. His political passion, though, was undoubtedly health care. In fact, it’s been well noted that a critical qualifier for his endorsement of Barack Obama during the primaries was that he put health care reform at the top of the agenda were he to win the presidency. Well, President Obama won the White House and guess what he began tackling six months into his term?

While Obama has indeed embarked on the task of reforming the health care system, the tone of the debate, and frankly its direction, is unlikely what Senator Kennedy would have wanted. There is little doubt that, if not for his illness, he would have played a pivotal role in the debate. Right now, change is in jeopardy of giving in to the status quo. From the Republican wing, a side of the aisle Kennedy routinely partnered with to get things done, it appears as though they are doing absolutely everything in their power to derail change. Politicians tasked with working together to come up with bipartisan solutions are doing anything but, and evidence supports the fact that they are not negotiating in good faith. In the Democratic corner, there is obvious difficulty getting on the same page. Some are unwilling to unapologetically demand for the change in health care that Obama — himself included — campaigned on; a solution to halt and draw back the soaring cost of insurance; an end to insurance companies picking and choosing illnesses they decide to cover as it so fits their fiscal bottom line; and purposefully addressing the millions of uninsured Americans in this country.

Let’s not even get into the insurance lobby.

I say all that to say this: Sen. Kennedy’s tragic passing can and should have a function in this debate. Here you have someone who’s life passion was health care for all. We are currently in the middle of an intense debate over what health care reform should look like — and in some cases, whether or not the debate should even be taking place. President Obama and his party should look at his passing as a rallying cry. Buckle down and fight for Sen. Kennedy’s flagship issue. Settle for nothing less than what the “Lion of the Senate” would deem acceptable. Pass meaningful reform and make quality health care a guarantee for all Americans. Finish his life’s work.

And none of that fugazy reform, either. He would not approve of half-assed weak-kneed alternatives like the co-op plan, and Democrats know that. The bill, which in all likelihood will bear Sen. Kennedy’s name, should accomplish precisely what he would have wanted it to accomplish.

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