Sen. Kennedy Crafting Bipartisan Bill Aimed at Universal Health Care
Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) has been organizing and overseeing meetings with members of both parties to draft health care legislation to present to the new president and Congress next year that would extend health insurance to all U.S. residents, the Washington Times reports.
The talks have included 14 roundtable meetings attended by Kennedy aides and staffers for both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate Budget Committee, Senate Finance Committee and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, chaired by Kennedy. Kennedy has monitored the talks, which started in June, through telephone updates from his staff.
The talks also were attended by representatives from a broad array of groups with an interest in health care, including the:
- American Medical Association;
- America's Health Insurance Plans;
- Business Roundtable;
- Consumers Union,
- Families USA;
- Federation of American Hospitals;
- National Federation of Independent Business; and
- National Retail Federation.
In addition, Kennedy aides have started meeting regularly with consumers and small groups of people representing each area of the health care industry.
The Times reports that the conversations are "extraordinary" because they are bipartisan and have "managed to put in the same room interests that rarely meet -- let alone agree with one another."
Kennedy hopes to introduce a bill as early as possible in the next congressional session. Kennedy aides have said they have not yet drafted legislation but likely will do so soon.
Aides say Kennedy's close ties to Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) could improve the bill's prospects. The aides said that they are not working with the Obama campaign on the proposal, but that the ideas are not ones to which Obama would object.
According to the Times, an Obama aide attended many of the early meetings arranged by Kennedy, but no aides to Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) did.
The Times reports that Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) also may propose health care reform legislation, although a Baucus aide said he plans to work closely with Kennedy (Birnbaum, Washington Times, 10/24).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.