Kennedy Health Reform Measure Mandates Employer Coverage Contribution

June 1, 2009 ( - U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) is expected as early as this week to unveil a sweeping health-care reform plan requiring every American to have insurance and mandating that employers contribute to workers' coverage.

According to a Washington Post news report, Democrats on the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) committee are expected to meet Tuesday on the bill, with a bipartisan review scheduled for Friday. Committee changes to the Kennedy measure could start as soon as June 16.

Kennedy said in a recently published editorial column that the proposed law would establish a “gateway” for people without insurance or those who wish to change insurers to compare prices, and he made clear a government-run plan will be one of the options available.

“We’ll negotiate with insurance companies to keep premiums and copays low and help you with your premiums if you can’t afford them,” Kennedy wrote. “We’re also hearing that some Americans want the choice of enrolling in a health insurance program backed by the government for the public good, not private profit – so that option will be available too.”

Republicans and private insurers argue Kennedy’s plan would drive insurers out of business and lead to a complete government takeover of health care. Democrats argue it would inject much needed competition into the insurance market and help keep a lid on soaring insurance premiums.

Health industry sources said they also expect the Kennedy bill to expand the Medicaid health program for the poor to cover more low and moderate income people, according to a Reuters report.

They also expect it to include an expansion of Medicare to help cover people over 55 who often find it hard to obtain coverage when they lose their employer-sponsored insurance. Currently, only those 65 or older qualify for the Medicare health program.