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US Senator Kennedy Pushes For Universal Health Coverage January 10, 2007

Posted by notapundit in Congress, Politics, US News.
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WASHINGTON (AP)–The federal government should join his home state of Massachusetts in enacting universal health coverage, says Sen. Edward Kennedy, the new chairman of the Senate committee with jurisdiction over numerous health issues.

Massachusetts is the first state to require everyone to have health insurance, just as drivers must have automobile coverage, and his push comes as California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger this week proposed a plan that would extend health care to 6.5 million uninsured Californians. Under the proposal, all Californians must have insurance, although the poorest would be subsidized.

Kennedy has his own version of what universal health coverage would look like. He wants to extend Medicare to all. But, in prepared remarks for a hearing scheduled Wednesday, he signaled an intent to consider programs being tried in the states.

Massachusetts employs a combination of subsidies and penalties to make the insurance more affordable and to force people to buy it.

The Massachusetts Democrat said too many trends in health care are going in the wrong direction.

“Insurance coverage is down. Costs are up. And America is heading to the bottom of the league of major nations in important measures of the quality of care,” he said.

Advocacy groups say they are optimistic that Congress this year will expand health insurance coverage to more Americans. They are particularly lobbying to increase funding for coverage of children living in families that make too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford the monthly health insurance premiums offered through the private sector.

However, Kennedy is talking about taking the expansion to a much higher level as he becomes chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Some of the committee’s Republicans would like the committee to renew its attention on help for small businesses. They support a plan that would let businesses buy insurance through regional or national trade associations. The insurance would be free of many state mandates. That could make it a cheaper alternative, but would also provide scaled-back coverage in some instances.

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