Ted Kennedy's Final Days

The New York Times recounts Senator Ted Kennedy's final days and how he coped with his illness. It's both sad and inspirational.

President Obama has issued an executive order that flags be flown at half-mast until Sunday.

What's next? Sen. Kennedy will lie in repose Thursday and Friday at the JFK presidential library. His funeral will be Saturday at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Boston. President Obama will deliver a eulogy. He will then be buried at Arlington next to his brothers.

And after that? Democrats are hoping his legacy will spur support for the health care reform bill. Will the Dems rename the Health Care after him? If they do, I hope it's one that includes the principles he fought for. And that means a strong public option. Here's the letter he and Chris Dodd wrote to Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. [More..]

Like the President and a strong majority of Americans, we believe that a strong public option is an important component of any health reform bill that keeps costs down, expands coverage, and offers American families a wide variety of affordable options. Backed by the government for the public good, not private profit, our public option – called the Community Health Insurance Option – will be a strong, effective national plan that provides Americans with a real alternative to traditional, for-profit insurance.

Here’s how it works:

  • Our public option will be a national plan, available in each state and territory and administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which will negotiate rates and premiums.
  • Like private insurance plans, it will be available through the Health Insurance Gateway. Enrollees will be entitled to the same tax credits as those enrolled in the private plans available through the Gateway.
  • And, of course, participation in the public option will be just that – an option for American consumers who will be able to decide what plan is best for their families.

For the 47 million Americans currently living without health insurance, a public option will represent an opportunity to access quality, affordable care. For those who have insurance but still struggle to get the care they and their families need, the healthy competition provided by our proposal will offer a wider variety of options while keeping costs down.

And for the many Americans who have good coverage, nothing will change. They will still be able to keep their doctor, their hospital, and their insurance plan. What our proposal offers these families is stability – no longer will Americans with good health care have to worry about losing everything if they lose or change their job, or if someone in their family becomes sick or injured.

...a strong public option isn’t just what Americans want – it’s what America needs.

Ted Kennedy's goal was universal health care. We're not going to get that, but if we rename the bill after him, it should come as close as possible to his aspirations, and that means the public option must be included.

< Panel Recommends Reducing Marijuana Fines to $1.00 | Thursday Morning Open Thread >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    Yes, let's pass a bill (5.00 / 3) (#1)
    by andgarden on Wed Aug 26, 2009 at 11:57:55 PM EST
     exactly along the lines Ted's letter suggests.

    His name belongs on the health care bill (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by Radiowalla on Thu Aug 27, 2009 at 12:12:47 AM EST
    because he has been the most stalwart champion of reform in the whole Congress.

    I can remember him intoning about reform waaaaaaay back when no one else had taken up the issue and I've always admired him for that.

    Not quite (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by mmc9431 on Thu Aug 27, 2009 at 05:22:57 AM EST
    Only if the bill contains a strong public option.

    This letter clearly lays down the gaunnlet that any HCR bill has to include this. I think there could be an uproar within the ranks if Democrat's try to push anything less than with with TK's name on the bill.


    Yeh, I'm arguing with incrementalists (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by Cream City on Thu Aug 27, 2009 at 08:44:26 AM EST
    in my circle now.  They're led by an economist, and one who worked like mad to get McCaskill elected, because that seems to be the best you can do in a Missouri.  And so he's buying into the "get the foot in the door" stuff and more concessions to Repubs, saying that's what Kennedy wanted and he have then worked for public option for later.  

    No, I said: Kennedy made it clear that public option was necessary -- and that there had been almost 100 concessions to Repubs and their ilk, the d*mn Blue Dogs, even months ago.

    Try the foot in the door with them, and you will get it stomped on and be sent to the ER with broken toes and will walk out will bills that will break you financially, too, and only raise your health insurance rates -- if you have health insurance.  If not, then they will have you denied health insurance based on your pre-existing condition of stomped-on toes.


    Blue Dogs working for you? (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by MO Blue on Thu Aug 27, 2009 at 08:53:32 AM EST
    The coalition also sent the Democratic House leadership a letter stressing they would favor a public option only if industry reforms and greater competition don't lead to lower costs.

    Now why wouldn't the Blue Dogs want their constituents to pay less for health care?

    As the Obama administration and Democrats wrangled over the timing, shape and cost of health care overhaul efforts during the first half of the year, more than half the $1.1 million in campaign contributions the Democratic Party's Blue Dog Coalition received came from the pharmaceutical, health care and health insurance industries, according to watchdog organizations. link

    I think this is "trigger" talk. (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by Anne on Thu Aug 27, 2009 at 10:13:55 AM EST
    They're saying, in effect, "let's see if the industry can reform itself and lower costs, and if it doesn't, then we might have to get a public option in place to do it."  For some reason, they think that just the mere threat of a public option will be enough to bring the insurance companies in line and lower costs.

    The idea that the industry, which has not shown the slightest inclination up to this point to self-regulate in order to bring down the costs to policy-holders, will now make efforts to do that because of a weak and meaningless threat from Congress, would be laugh-out-loud funny if it weren't so unbelievably dishonest.


    what i can't understand... (none / 0) (#16)
    by Dadler on Thu Aug 27, 2009 at 10:37:35 AM EST
    ...is the complete fairy-tale belief that these companies are going to seriously cut into their profits for ANYthing.  the insurane industry exists for ONE reason: to make as much money as they can while paying out as little as they can.  that is where all roads lead with them.  that obama seems to believe otherwise makes him, imo, childishly naive.  then again, he's struck a backroom deal with them and just knows they are sincere.



    Not a cut in profits (none / 0) (#21)
    by waldenpond on Thu Aug 27, 2009 at 01:41:54 PM EST
    They have just promised certain reduction... waste, paperwork etc.  There was no promise that other areas would not increase.  The market responds to the public option only.

    Trigger talk is (none / 0) (#17)
    by MO Blue on Thu Aug 27, 2009 at 10:42:26 AM EST
    "Not in my lifetime talk"

    The so called health insurance reform is not fully implemented until 2017. Seems that the time frame given on the trigger is 10 years.

    Under the plan floated by Kerry, a public health care option would only be triggered by private insurance companies failing to meet certain criteria after ten years. Known as the "trigger" in legislative lingo, the idea is vociferously opposed by health care advocates who consider it the death of reform. HufPo

    "Premiums are high," the New York Democrat said, "and either one or two insurers dominate the market. As we've seen with Medicare part D, a trigger option has so far meant no public option at all."

    Indeed, as Schumer notes, there is a trigger in the Medicare part D program and, to this date, the conditions have never been met for a public option for prescription drug coverage. The standards were set by private market, all but ensuring that they would remain unreachable. Progressive officials working on health care reform worry that should the same system be put in place for insurance coverage, the same result will occur and public health care will never come to pass. HufPo

    Mbube - Laying down in Lion Style (5.00 / 2) (#8)
    by Ellie on Thu Aug 27, 2009 at 05:26:43 AM EST
    After too many rounds of The Lion Sleeps Tonight at the wake and too many (plus one for good measure) of toasts I wanted to stop by and pay my respects.

    I agree 100% with singing Teddy's praises loud and long and commemorating his legacy monumentally:

    His name, ideals and life's work flowing and showing as proudly and naturally as the mane on that big gorgeous head.

    Here's the just-right (must-have) version of The Lion (Sleeps Tonight) that wound down the vigil: Mbube by Miriam Makeba. Mbube is both the style of song and name for the Lion. It's traditionally done without musical instruments, for the true lion song needs none. It can be as gentle as a mother's lullaby or as mighty as a warrior's roar, but always brave and strong. The resonance within the silences amplifies the power of both.

    Lion Style was Teddy Style and the song fit just right.

    That's gorgeous. Thank you (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by Cream City on Thu Aug 27, 2009 at 08:51:25 AM EST
    although I now will never be able to listen again to the campy American versions without laughing -- or groaning.

    That NY Times article has me tearing up (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by ruffian on Thu Aug 27, 2009 at 09:47:26 AM EST
    Maybe it's the Irish in me, but for the first time in a long time I really hope there is an afterlife so those brothers and sisters are reunited.

    WSWS on Edward Kennedy (2.00 / 0) (#3)
    by Andreas on Thu Aug 27, 2009 at 02:48:00 AM EST
    The WSWS writes:

    In death, Kenney is being eulogized as the "Lion of the Senate" --a master legislator and advocate for the common man. While the personal tragedies of the Kennedys evoke in the public a certain sympathy for Ted Kennedy, the fact remains that his name is not associated with a single serious social reform. He spent his final decade sponsoring bipartisan measures of a right-wing character, such as George W. Bush's "No Child Left Behind Act"--an attack on public education--and a punitive bill targeting undocumented immigrants that failed to win passage in Congress.

    Kennedy supported Obama in the 2008 election, in part out of animus toward Bill Clinton, whom he privately despised. The dark irony of his life is underscored by the fact that his signature political cause, which he promoted for nearly 50 years--universal health care--has been turned by Obama into a cover for a ruthless drive to gut health care for millions of working Americans. A bill to slash health care costs for big business and the government was being debated in Congress as Kennedy lay dying.

    Ted Kennedy and the decay of American liberalism
    By Barry Grey, 27 August 2009

    Oh good. (none / 0) (#6)
    by Tony on Thu Aug 27, 2009 at 03:50:57 AM EST
    The World Socialist Web Site has chimed in.  Tell me more about "conservative governor Michael Dukakis."  Sheesh.

    Tin ear's for social etiquette (none / 0) (#20)
    by jondee on Thu Aug 27, 2009 at 11:47:45 AM EST
    aside, WSW makes a valid point concerning the way the Right has hi-jacked mainstream political discourse and turned pols like Kennedy, who would be considered the center in most parts of the world, into "left wing liberals."

    Um two things (none / 0) (#18)
    by Socraticsilence on Thu Aug 27, 2009 at 10:53:53 AM EST

    1. Kennedy used incrementalism on a lot of issues, and supposedly regretted not doing so with Nixon on healthcare (this is not to say he opposed a public option it was his baby).

    2. NCLB was pushed by Kennedy because he wrongly it turned out- trusted Bush to provide adequate funding to states rather than making it an unfunded mandate- with adequate funding NCLB had potential to allow relatively rapid response to subpar schools instead of defunding them and forcing teachers to gear lesson plans to the tests themselves.

    Who are WSWS? (none / 0) (#22)
    by hairspray on Thu Aug 27, 2009 at 07:32:19 PM EST
    While the summary provided (none / 0) (#19)
    by Anne on Thu Aug 27, 2009 at 10:58:37 AM EST
    sounds pretty good, the devil, as they say, is in the details.

    Two weeks ago, Kip Sullivan posted a lengthy analysis of the HELP committee's Community Health Insurance Option.  It's weedy and wonky, but nonetheless helpful in getting an understanding of how what sounds great in PR releases, can become perhaps less attractive when the details are fleshed out.

    To begin with, as of the date of Kip's post, the HELP Committee bill had no bill number, and wasn't available for the public to read.  I don't know if this has changed, but the only thing available was the draft bill on the committee's website.  It was in two pieces, the second of which contained the details on the Community Health Insurance Option.  I have not compared the July 2 Bill Text that appears on the Kaiser link Jeralyn provided with the markup provided in Kip's post, so your guess is as good as mine whether either of these two bills are the final HELP committee bill.

    But' here's part of what Sullivan has to say:

    Section 3106 requires the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS, the federal agency within which Medicare and Medicaid are housed) to create multiple health insurance companies that, together, will make "public" health insurance available for sale to the non-elderly in every state in the country.  The Secretary will not be using federal employees to make this happen.  The Secretary is required, rather, to contract with nonprofit insurance companies to create health insurance policies that will qualify as "community health insurance options."

    Kip goes on to dissect the language of the draft bill, and says:

    But as we read on, we encounter provision after provision that indicates the HELP Committee definitely envisions a balkanized "option." Some provisions reveal that intention by referring to "options" plural. Others reveal it by giving the states the authority to determine essential features of "options" sold within their boundaries, such as the required reserve levels and maximum benefits. A single national program can't have 50 different reserve requirements and 50 different benefit levels.

    Anyone else feeling a little uncertain yet that what is described in the posted summary may not be all it's cracked up to be?

    Section 3106 is a mess, but its meaning becomes clear after several readings. Section 3106 does not create the "Medicare-like" program promised by Jacob Hacker, HCAN, Howard Dean, and other "option" advocates. Instead it proposes a program that authorizes DHHS to create numerous health insurance companies tied to geographic areas, and to contract with members of the existing insurance industry to create and possibly run those companies.

    Before people leap onto a bandwagon in the belief that, because Ted Kennedy's name is in some way attached to a "public option" that it is, in fact, as great as it is being advertised, I would urge them to read the markup, and read the analysis of it.  

    And remain skeptical given the extraordinary push to pass "something," and now using Ted Kennedy's death to rally support for whatever it turns out to be.

    Ted Kennedy was a stronger liberal (none / 0) (#23)
    by hairspray on Thu Aug 27, 2009 at 08:23:28 PM EST
    than most Democrats in the Senate outside of Paul Wellstone and Russ Feingold. As such he fought for that point of view with his colleagues and did a great deal of good. On the other hand, his behavior towards Jimmy Carter in 1980 and Hillary and Bill Clinton later was nothing to be proud of. Why he refused to let Hillary shepherd the health care legislation and instead let Max Baucus run it is beyond me.