Since national health care is so inextricably linked to the public policy beliefs of Senator Edward Kennedy it is essential to recognize the linchpin on which its foundation rested.
When his brother President John Kennedy championed a Medicare proposal that would ultimately become law under his successor President Lyndon Johnson its foundation rested on public policy. Such had been the case earlier extending back to the Bull Moose Party platform of Theodore Roosevelt and comparable subsequent proposals by Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry Truman.
Cost containment is the engine driving the historic proposal. Its four presidential proponents along with Senator Kennedy recognized the need to hold down costs in the private sector in order for such a proposal to succeed. For instance, I read just this week a figure that, since 2002, the profits of health insurers burgeoned more than 400 percent.
It is with this reality in mind that it was disconcerting to learn about an agreement that President Obama allegedly reached with the same pharmaceutical giants that have driven prescription drug costs up to record levels.
Congressman Henry Waxman's, the House's counterpart to Ted Kennedy in the ongoing fight for national health care, delivered a terse comment regarding Obama's alleged agreement with the pharmaceutical industry. Waxman let it be known that any agreement Obama might have reached was without congressional consultation and that House members would not be bound by any such decision.
Paul Krugman weighed in on the public option issue in his August 20 New York Times column. "One purpose of the public option is to save money," Krugman wrote. "Experience with Medicare suggests that a government-run plan would have lower costs than private insurers; in addition, it would introduce more competition and keep premiums down."
Bob Herbert in his New York Times column of August 17 declared, "The hope of a government-run insurance option is all but gone." Herbert then zeroed in on what is being trumpeted by Obama as health care "reform":
"Insurance companies are delighted with the way 'reform' is unfolding. Think of it: The government is planning to require most uninsured Americans to buy health coverage. Millions of young and healthy individuals will be herded into the industry's welcoming arms. This is the population the insurers drool over."
Herbert used the term "sweet deal" to refer to Obama's idea of "reform" and noted that former Clinton administration Labor Secretary Robert Reich wrote that the deal struck by the Obama White House is similar to that which George W. Bush struck in getting the Medicare drug benefit.