Sen. Kennedy’s impact on health care

Steve Henn Aug 26, 2009
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Sen. Kennedy’s impact on health care

Steve Henn Aug 26, 2009
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TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Steve Chiotakis: You may have already heard this morning about the passing of Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy. He died last night at the age of 77. This morning, we look at the impact of the senior statesman’s economic legacy. And joining us live from Washington to talk about that is Marketplace’s Steve Henn. Good morning Steve.

Steve Henn: Good morning.

Chiotakis: Sen. Kennedy’s father Joseph Kennedy was the first head of the SEC — the Securities and Exchange Commission — but Ted Kennedy’s really never been identified with Wall Street, right?

Henn: No, that’s right Steve. You know, his issues were always things like health care and civil rights, immigration reform. You know, fighting tirelessly to raise the minimum wage. Sen. Kennedy’s legislative legacy is really defined by his constant push to help the underdog.

Chiotakis: But he was a polarizing figure at the same time?

Henn: Oh no doubt. Republican have been using Teddy Kennedy to raise money for at least four decades. But he still managed to work across party lines and with Conservatives to do major things. He worked with a conservative to create the Children’s Health Insurance Program, to pass a bill that allows employees to keep their health insurance after they leave their jobs. Even worked with Newt Gingrich to promote health IT reform. Health care was really what he called the cause of his life, and he first became involved back in the 60s when he helped set up community health clinics. He became aware that low-income residents in Boston lived next to major hospitals but still had to wait hours for care and used that experience to push to make care more accessible to low-income people.

Chiotakis: So what does his death, Steve, mean for the health care debate in the Senate?

Henn: You know that’s unclear. Some Republicans like John McCain have wondered if Kennedy was really one of the only people in the Senate with the personal connections and expertise to break the deadlock there. On the other hand though, Democrats are certainly going to use his death to rally to his cause and possibly pass a bill in Kennedy’s honor. For now at least though, Democrats in the Senate have lost a vote. Massachusetts law requires a special election, and that won’t happen for at least 145 days. One of the last things Kennedy did was ask for that law to be changed so Democrats could get a senator in there more quickly.

Chiotakis: All right. Marketplace’s Steve Henn live in Washington. Steve, thanks.

Henn: Sure thing.

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