Kennedy Promotes Health Plan

Bill Would Guarantee Insurance for Children in Working Families

Addressing a full house at the ARCO Forum last night, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy '54-'56 (D-Mass.) announced a plan that he said aims to "make a major difference in the future of children in America."

Kennedy joined representatives from academia, the private sector and public health as part of a panel titled "Children's Health Care and the National Agenda" sponsored by Project H.E.A.L.T.H. and its parent organization, the Institute of Politics (IOP).

The bipartisan bill, which will be introduced in the Senate today, proposes guaranteed health insurance for 10 million children in working families who cannot afford health care and a 43-cent tax on cigarettes to fund the support.

Sheila Burke, moderator of the event and executive dean of the Kennedy School, noted that children's health care is "an issue of critical importance to us" that has not been reconciled because of partisan and regional conflicts.

"While we have fiddled, Rome has burned," Burke said.


Burke noted Kennedy's "unusual leadership reaching across the aisle" to achieve a consensus for the bill.

Kennedy said he is confident the Senate will support him and co-author Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), saying the bill "will move quickly to a majority position."

He also said there is a "great deal of interest in Congress" about the initiative and he believes President Clinton will sign the bill.

Other members of the panel supported Kennedy, but some articulated their vision for the next step in the policy debate: universal health insurance.

Professor of Government and Sociology Theda Skocpol said that Kennedy's plan only begins to address the country's needs for medical care, emphasizing that health care is a "family problem, not just a children's problem."

Although Skocpol praised Kennedy's efforts, she said she is only "guardedly optimistic" about the future of health care in America.

She and Burke cited the political influence of the tobacco industry as one of the obstacles the bill will need to overcome in order to reach fruition.

Barry Zuckerman, chair of the pediatrics department at Boston Medical Center, said he believes Congress will work toward effective policy for, if nothing else, political reasons.

"I feel that whether it's in two or four years, politicians will have to point to something positive," Zuckerman said.

Zuckerman shared Skocpol's concern for family care, noting the need for advances in parents'--and specifically women's--health.

Student organizers said they were excited by the outcome of the forum.