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Joan E. Dowlin Headshot

The Time Is Now for Kennedy Care

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I was wrong. A few weeks ago I wrote a blog entitled, "Dr. Obama, Listen to Your Patient," where I expressed my opinion that maybe now is not the time for health care reform. I felt that after two stimulus packages and a cap and trade bill that amounted to over two trillion dollars being added to the deficit, we, the American people, needed time to assess whether these new programs were going to work before tackling such a complicated issue as health care.

I have since changed my mind. I have become convinced that our present inefficient medical care system has drained the economy and as President Obama has stated, is costing Americans far more than reforming health care will. Today the Philadelphia Inquirer stated: "Health-care costs account for 18 percent of GDP (gross domestic product), according to the president's Council of Economic Advisors, and are projected to rise to 34 percent by 2040."

There have also been a lot of myths about Obama Care being perpetrated on the public as evidenced by comments at health care town hall meetings. The idea of "death panels" comprised of government bureaucrats deciding whether our elders or special needs children should live or die as espoused by former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, the contention that Medicare will be denied to seniors, and the belief that citizens will not be able to keep their private insurance plans are all untrue.

The late Senator Edward M. Kennedy dedicated his life to the cause of quality health care for all. While he was receiving treatment for brain cancer, his strong presence was sorely missed in the Senate while the health care debate raged on this summer. He was a master negotiator who knew how to reach across the aisle to work out legislative deals. (Senator Kennedy authored at least 300 laws.)

I am hoping that Senator Ted Kennedy's recent death will create an impetus in Congress to finally pass health care reform.

Watching Ted Kennedy's Memorial Service and Funeral I was quite moved by the touching tributes shared by his family, friends, and colleagues of all political persuasions. I had never realized what a caring and compassionate husband, father, brother, uncle, friend, and public servant he had been to so many people. I had the good fortune, along with my dad, of hearing him speak live at a local Democratic fund raiser in the spring of 2008. I was struck then by how down to earth he was; just a regular guy with no airs of self importance.

My favorite tribute story was told by his son, Ted Jr. When at the age of twelve right after he had lost his leg to cancer and was adjusting to an artificial one, his father challenged him to go sledding. The hill was steep and icy and snowy. Teddy Jr. fell and cried, saying he couldn't do it. Ted Sr. lifted him in his arms and said: "I know you will do it. There's nothing you can't do. We are going to climb this hill together even if it takes all day." And they did and as young Teddy sled down on his father's back he knew that he had learned a valuable lesson. "Nothing is impossible."

It's a lesson we need to learn about health care reform. Just as Bobby took on the cause of civil rights after his brother Jack (President John F. Kennedy) was slain, Teddy carried the torch of social justice passed on to him by both brothers after Bobby was shot.

The youngest brother never gave up the fight. He turned countless family tragedies and personal failures into triumphs to become what President Obama has called "our greatest legislator." We must now move forward to pass Ted Kennedy's signature issue of his public life: universal health care.

Tonight I opened a fortune cookie that read: "The smallest deed is better than the biggest intention." I thought of Teddy Kennedy when I read it. While his brothers gave us vision and hope, Ted's great accomplishments in the Senate brought us real and enduring change.

Let us allow Ted Kennedy's indomitable, courageous, and passionate spirit to inspire us to reform an issue that affects every American. The time is now for Kennedy Universal Health Care!