Thursday, March 25, 2010


The photo is of Senator Ted Kennedy's grave, where his son, Rep. Patrick Kennedy, left a note after the health insurance reform bill passed, saying that the "unfinished business" was now finished. Ted Kennedy used those words, unfinished business, in his last letter to President Obama, and those words were used often by President Kennedy to describe what needed to be done--the unfinished business of America.

The health insurance reform law does cap the long struggle for reform that provides a fairer health care system for most Americans, that Ted Kennedy called his life's work. So President Obama made sure that his widow and his niece Caroline as well as his son Patrick were present when he signed the bill into law. Others also recognized his long championing of this cause. Today the Senate honored Ted Kennedy's contribution with a moment of silence.

This was the most significant step in health care since Medicare was passed in 1965. This had been proposed and advocated by President Kennedy. I was in high school during the Kennedy administration, and "medical care for the aged" (as it was called) was a debate topic one year. So I spent months researching it, and became familiar with the arguments, including many similar to those heard this year, although "socialized medicine" was as far as the right would go--"socialism" would have been scandalous, or laughed away. So much about the debate hasn't changed, including the blinders worn by the opposition. (One significant change, though: a major opponent of Medicare was the American Medical Association, the largest doctors group. The AMA announced its support of the Obama plan days before the House vote.)

That we've progressed so little in our politics is discouraging. But there is always unfinished business, in a country trying to be better. This new law may well do more than anything since the 60s to reverse trends that damage a lot of non-rich Americans, and not only their health. But there is still so much left to finish.