Wednesday, August 26, 2009

RIP Senator Edward "Ted" Kennedy

Sen. Kennedy (D-MA; international readers: that means a Democrat from Massachusetts) has passed away. He had terminal brain cancer, and was given a prognosis of only a few months to live earlier in the year. Nonetheless, he worked tirelessly on health reform until he died.

The late Senator was very liberal and was a highly effective legislator. He wanted to enact a long-term care social insurance program in his committee's health reform bill. It isn't likely to survive, but long-term care is a huge social issue. I was estimating premiums for the program (i.e. what they would need to charge to keep the program solvent) and found out he was underestimating the costs. I mentioned this to a fellow intern, who remarked, "I'm not surprised." He also structured the program as automatic enrollment with opt out allowed; in contrast, Medicare and Social Security (the US social health insurance program for those over 65, and the US retirement social insurance supplement respectively) are mandatory for most people. Too many people would likely opt out of his long-term care program to make it viable.

He may have been overly optimistic, but he meant to provide meaningful insurance coverage for all Americans. His heart was in the right place. In politics, you start with idealism and work out the details - and try to make sure you don't trade away too much. I think the late Senator mostly managed to do this over his long career.

Robert Reich, previous adviser to President Clinton, has comments on the Huffington Post. HuffPost will have other comments. Readers should note that they're considered left-leaning and partisan.

The New York Times has a 7-page obituary.

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