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Wednesday, October 7th 2009

Ted Kennedy’s Ghost

In case you missed it during his life Ted Kennedy was dedicated to health care reform.

[S]oon, very soon, affordable health coverage will be available to all, in an America where the state of a family’s health will never again depend on the amount of a family’s wealth. And while I will not see the victory, I was able to look forward and know that we will – yes, we will – fulfill the promise of health care in America as a right and not a privilege.

[zdvideo width=500 height=400 theme=simple1]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PrJVbCzJH6c[/zdvideo]

I owe lengthy discussions on Obamacare: Options on Reform (including HR 3200 and Baucus’ bill and the HELP bill), as well as Obamacare: Support for Reform and a final post opining on what is likely to happen. I haven’t gotten into the full fledged set of posts I planned on the current healthcare reform effort because intern year is beating me down. They’re coming, hopefully before reform actually happens.

But I thought it was important to talk about Ted Kennedy’s role in all of this. It’s much less substantial than many imagined it would be. The Reno Gazette-Journal has taken the interview down but following Kennedy’s death Harry Reid had this to say,

Q: How will U.S. Sen. Kennedy’s death affect things?

A: I think it’s going to help us. He hasn’t been around for some time. We’re going to have a new chairman of that committee, it’ll be, I don’t know for sure, but I think Sen. (Chris) Dodd, (D-Conn.). He has a right to take it. Either him or (U.S. Sen. Tom) Harkin, (D-Iowa), whichever one wants it can have it. I think he (Kennedy) will be a help.

Delightfully crass and yet slightly tactless.

Part of it is that the proponents of reform have simply lost the debate for hearts and minds. I honestly didn’t see such coming, I thought Obama’s election represented the absolute best chance for reform that America had ever known. But such warrants a full fledged and detailed post on support for reform and how brilliantly the insurance industry and others have played this whole mess.

The truth is Senator Kennedy’s presence in the limelight has shrunk over the years, only more so following his diagnosis of cancer. He was not the voice for healthcare reform he might have once been. It is difficult for the public to identify him with the issue.

[SEIU President Andy Stern] and Randel Johnson, a senior vice president of labor, immigration and employee benefits at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, predict that any benefit to advocates of a health care overhaul will be temporary.

“I don’t think it’s ultimately going to have any long-term effect,” says Johnson, who said he has the “highest admiration for Sen. Kennedy, although we were on opposite sides of the labor issue.”

“He’s been out of the public debate, and the health care issue is so huge across the country that it has eclipsed one personality,” he says.

A shout of ‘Do it for Teddy’ is overbeared by the shouts of town hall enthusiasts.