The Proper Monument For A Man

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - September 02, 2009

U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy

As I write, Democrats in both House and Senate are talking about passage of the Edward M. Kennedy Healthcare Reform Act of 2009. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opined last Thursday that “Ted Kennedy’s dream of quality healthcare for all Americans will be made real this year because of his leadership and inspiration.”

Both Vice President Al Gore and Sen. Robert Byrd of Virginia chimed in. Said Gore: “Ted would want nothing more than for his colleagues to continue his life’s work and to make real his dream of quality health-care for all Americans.”

“In his honor and as a tribute to his commitment and ideals,” said Byrd, “let us stop the shouting and name calling and have a civil debate on healthcare reform which I hope, when legislation has been signed into law, will bear his name for his commitment to insuring the health of every American.”

Radio talker Rush Limbaugh, the unofficial spokesman for what remains of the national Republican Party, responded that Kennedy’s death was being used by the political left to pass a healthcare legislation that will destroy “the United States of America as we know it.”

Well ... duh? But of course. Surely Limbaugh doesn’t think Kennedy would mind having his name on a bill that would extend healthcare coverage to all Americans. Indeed, if there is an afterlife from which the dead look down on, or up at what we the living do on this planet, Ted Kennedy would lift a pint and do an Irish jig if the use of his name in any way, shape or form would help pass a universal healthcare bill.

For the better part of his 47 years in the United States Senate, Kennedy has asserted the moral issue of universal health-care. Whenever he had the opportunity, the youngest Kennedy voted to expand healthcare coverage. He voted for Medicare for older Americans, Medicaid for the poor and every expansion of healthcare for children that came along.

Mr. Limbaugh and the ranters and ravers who have answered the conservative call to disrupt discussions of healthcare across the nation need to read T.R. Reid’s The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Healthcare.

Reid is a former Washington Post reporter who set out to discover how every other wealthy, free market, industrial nation like the United States had been able to provide healthcare for their populations. He traveled to Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Germany, Japan, Switzerland and Taiwan.

Reid talked to doctors, patients, hospital administrators, insurers and government officials.

Reid’s conclusion?

Pure, socialist medicine was to be found in none of these countries. Instead, through different mixes of private doctors, private hospitals, private insurance and government, universal healthcare is provided for everyone - and always, in Reid’s telling, at a significantly lower cost than healthcare is provided to less than 85 percent of the population of the United States.

Reid concludes that the success of the countries he visited in providing health-care to all - and the failure of the United States to do so - comes down to two basic questions: “Should society guarantee healthcare the way we guarantee the right to think and pray as you like, to get an education, to vote in free elections? Or is medicine a commodity to be bought and sold?”

Obviously, in the reckoning of Americans like Mr. Limbaugh and the people he so excites, it is a commodity to bought and sold.

That shouldn’t be the case. Kennedy knew it. I think in our hearts we all know it. No country as wealthy as the United States of America should allow a person’s health to depend on the size of their wallet.

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