There has been a stealth campaign running in the background during the sturm und drang of the U.S. presidential race. It has been a campaign for health care orchestrated by the terminally ill Sen. Edward M. Kennedy involving a tremendous bipartisan effort to craft a universal health care bill for presentation to the new President in the beginning of 2009.
Jeffrey H. Birnbaum of The Washington Times reports of the stupendous selection of people involved in what Kennedy is calling the "cause of his life":
The discussions, which started in June, included 14 roundtable meetings in the Dirksen Senate Office Building. These were attended not only by Kennedy aides but also by staffers, both Republicans and Democrats, from the Senate committees with jurisdiction over health care. Those include the Budget Committee, the Finance Committee and the committee that Mr. Kennedy leads, the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.Kennedy has remained in touch with the closed door proceedings via regular telephone updates from his staff. In addition, he is spending several hours a day on the phone with other Senators as he pushes to bring this bipartisan effort to fruition. Much like the efforts of Sen. Max Baucus which I have written about in earlier postings, this is an effort to bring all sides together. It would seem from the reports that I am starting to get that Sen. Kennedy's efforts are involving a much broader group of participants than any thus far.
Also attending was the entire panoply of interest groups with stakes in the cost and availability of health coverage. These included the AFL-CIO, the Business Roundtable, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Business, the National Retail Federation, the Federation of American Hospitals, the American Medical Association, America's Health Insurance Plans, Families USA, AARP and the Consumers Union.
Mr. Kennedy's staff has started to meet regularly with a small group of people representing each facet of industry as well as consumers. Kennedy aides said they have not drafted legislation but probably will do so soon.
Sidelined for weeks due the diagnosis of brain cancer and the subsequent treatment, Kennedy is nowhere near out of the running. As best as can be determined by the Washington Times article above, his audacity in having universal health care as a goal has drawn together lobbyists and consumers, providers and insurance companies, conservatives and liberals. I have a feeling that the next president will be presented with something truly unique and American when this bill is finalized and hits his desk.
SOURCE: "Kennedy secretly crafts health care plan- Turns 'cause of his life' into '09 bipartisan bill" 10/24/08
photo courtesy of diggersf, used under its Creative Commons license