Kennedy Urges New Era of Health Reform

June 18, 2002 ( - The current US war on terrorism should not come at the expense of extending health care insurance to millions of now-uncovered Americans, Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) said.

Kennedy plans to expand coverage by introducing legislation that would require every business with more than 100 employees to provide health care coverage for the employees and their dependents, according to an Associated Press report. The coverage would have to be as good as that provided for federal employees.

Kennedy, the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, told a National Press Club audience that there should be “a new era of health reform”.

He called for Congress and the Bush administration to reduce the plight of uninsured Americans, to reduce health care costs, and to enact a Medicare prescription drug benefit.

“Our sense of community is stronger than ever after the terrorist attacks,” Kennedy said. “And a nation that has united to defeat a mortal danger coming from half a world away can also unite to deal with moral challenges that will shape the lives of so many Americans for so many years to come.”

Kate Sullivan, director of health care policy for the US Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s largest business group, attacked Kennedy’s proposal.

She said businesses forced to provide more and better benefits, in a climate of rising health care costs, would end up cutting employee salaries or other benefits to make up the cost.

“It’s completely the wrong approach,” said Sullivan.

Read the full text of Kennedy’s speech .