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Posted by on Jul 22, 2009 in Economy, Health, Politics, Science & Technology, Society | 5 comments

The Obama Health Plan as Seen By Ted Kennedy


President Obama has just finished his news conference, intended to explain his health care reform plan and to gather support for an early passage.

While I am sure the O’Reillys and the Limbaughs will judge the conference to be a miserable failure, I believe that the president did a good job in generally outlining the need for, the objectives of, the intended results and the cost of the plan.

However, he fell somewhat short in explaining in more detail the specific elements that are “essential to any health-reform plan worthy of its name.”

Well, in the most recent issue of Newsweek, Senator Edward Kennedy does exactly that. He describes the elements that are essential to a good health care reform plan.

You can read them in Senator Kennedy’s stirring essay, “The Cause of My Life.”

But what struck me the most about the article is the commitment Senator Kennedy has for health care, and why he has made universal health care the cause of his life. He has good reasons for it.

Whatever one may think politically of Senator Kennedy, only the most hardened cynics may not feel some empathy for the health crises that he and his family have endured.

In the case of the Senator himself, it starts with the serious injuries he suffered 45 years ago as a result of an aircraft accident, resulting in a prolonged and agonizing medical treatment and recovery, and continues with his most recent and perhaps most serious “medical challenge,” his malignant brain tumor.

But as Kennedy himself says, “Nothing [he’s] enduring now can compare to hearing that [his] children were seriously ill.”

Kennedy is referring to the heartbreaking experience of seeing his 12-year-old son, Teddy, suffering from and fighting bone cancer. Teddy had to have his right leg amputated above the knee. Even then, the pathology report showed that some of the cancer cells were very aggressive, and Teddy participated in an agonizing clinical trial involving massive doses of chemotherapy.

Kennedy is also referring to his other son, Patrick, who suffered serious asthma as a child, and to his daughter, Kara, who was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2002, and also endured surgery and arduous chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

Should you feel sorry for the expected catastrophic financial setbacks that these health and medical problems may have caused the Kennedy family, don’t.

Senator Kennedy is the first one to point out that he and his family have enjoyed “the best medical care money (and a good insurance policy) can buy.”

But he is also quick to point out that, “[Q]uality 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.”

The senior Senator from Massachusetts gives us some heartbreaking examples of Americans, entire American families, who have faced, and are facing financial and emotional disaster simply because they can’t afford medical insurance and medical treatment.

In the Senator’s words:

During those many hours at the hospital, I came to know other parents whose children had been stricken with the same deadly disease. We all hoped that our child’s life would be saved by this experimental treatment. Because we were part of a clinical trial, none of us paid for it. Then the trial was declared a success and terminated before some patients had completed their treatments. That meant families had to have insurance to cover the rest or pay for them out of pocket. Our family had the necessary resources as well as excellent insurance coverage. But other heartbroken parents pleaded with the doctors: What chance does my child have if I can only afford half of the prescribed treatments? Or two thirds? I’ve sold everything. I’ve mortgaged as much as possible. No parent should suffer that torment. Not in this country. Not in the richest country in the world.

Earlier, I mentioned the cynics. While the cynics in earlier years may have thought that they had legitimate reasons to question Kennedy’s motives during his forty-plus-year battle for universal healthcare, I honestly do not believe that today, as he has no further career or political ambitions, as he fights for his own life, Senator Kennedy’s motives can be questioned.

At this stage of the Senator’s life, at this stage of the disease that is consuming him, Ted Kennedy has nothing to gain for himself, but everything to gain for millions of unfortunate Americans.

In Kennedy’s concluding words:

And I am resolved to see to it this year that we create a system to ensure that someday, when there is a cure for the disease I now have, no American who needs it will be denied it.

It is my hope that our leaders will indeed create such a system, not as a legacy to Senator Kennedy—he has already established his legacy—but because it is right for America.

And I hope that this happens in time for the Lion of the Senate to see “the Cause of his Life” become a reality.