On ABC's World News, senior congressional correspondent Jonathan Karl stated that “Republicans, even those close to Senator [Ted] Kennedy, are not buying” the argument that health care reform should be passed to honor Kennedy's memory, then aired a clip of Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) claiming Kennedy “wouldn't want it passed if it wasn't good.” But ABC did not note that Kennedy voted by proxy to pass the Senate HELP committee's health care legislation -- a bill Hatch criticized -- and advocated for progressive policies included in the bill, such as universal health care coverage and a public plan.
From the August 27 broadcast of ABC's World News with Charles Gibson:
KARL: The most senior senator, Robert Byrd, said yesterday, “My heart and soul weeps” at the loss of Senator Kennedy and called for naming the health care bill after him, a view widely held among Democrats.
REP. EDWARD MARKEY (D-MA): Senator Kennedy's spirit will infuse the Congress towards the goal of providing coverage for all those people who he cared for.
KARL: The tactic has worked before. After the assassination of John Kennedy, President Johnson invoked his memory to revive the long-stalled civil rights bill.
TAD DEVINE (Democratic strategist): What President Johnson did then, by telling the Congress and the people of America that it was time to finish an unfinished agenda, was exactly the right thing to do. And I think it's the right thing to do again.
KARL: But Republicans, even those close to Senator Kennedy, are not buying it.
SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R-UT): Frankly, I'm getting a little bit upset at some of these people trying to take advantage of this and saying we now have to pass health care reform because of Ted. Well, Ted wouldn't want it passed if it wasn't good.
Kennedy voted for HELP bill, saying he “could not be prouder of our Committee”
“I could not be prouder of our Committee. We have done the hard work that the American people sent us here to do. We have considered hundreds of proposals. Where we have been able to reach principled compromise, we have done so. Where we have not been able to resolve our differences, we have treated those with whom we disagree with respect and patience,” Chairman Kennedy said. “As we move from our committee room to the Senate floor, we must continue the search for solutions that unite us, so that the great promise of quality affordable health care for all can be fulfilled.”
HELP bill includes public option, requirement that all Americans have health insurance. The bill includes a public option and a mandate that each American is covered by a health insurance plan. According to the press release's summary of the bill:
Shared responsibility requires that everyone -- government, insurance companies, medical providers, individuals and employers -- has a part in solving America's health care crisis. The Affordable Health Choices Act requires those businesses which do not provide coverage for their workers to contribute to the cost of providing publicly sponsored coverage for those workers. It includes an exception for small businesses.
The bill also includes a strong public option that responds to the wishes of the American people to have a clear alternative to for-profit insurance companies. Like private insurance plans The Community Health Insurance Option will be available through the American Health Benefit Gateway, a new way for individuals and small employers to find and purchase quality and affordable health insurance in every state.
Kennedy advocated for passage of HELP bill, called health care for all Americans “the cause of my life”
Kennedy called for passage of the bill, citing “urgency” in the need for reform. In a July 18 Newsweek op-ed, Kennedy wrote that ensuring Americans have access to quality health care is the “cause of my life” and advocated for policies in the HELP bill. From the op-ed:
But quality care shouldn't depend on your financial resources, or the type of job you have, or the medical condition you face. Every American should be able to get the same treatment that U.S. senators are entitled to.
This is the cause of my life. It is a key reason that I defied my illness last summer to speak at the Democratic convention in Denver -- to support Barack Obama, but also to make sure, as I said, “that we will break the old gridlock and guarantee that every American...will have decent, quality health care as a fundamental right and not just a privilege.” For four decades I have carried this cause -- from the floor of the United States Senate to every part of this country. It has never been merely a question of policy; it goes to the heart of my belief in a just society. Now the issue has more meaning for me -- and more urgency -- than ever before. But it's always been deeply personal, because the importance of health care has been a recurrent lesson throughout most of my 77 years.
All Americans should be required to have insurance. For those who can't afford the premiums, we can provide subsidies. We'll make it illegal to deny coverage due to preexisting conditions. We'll also prohibit the practice of charging women higher premiums than men, and the elderly far higher premiums than anyone else. The bill drafted by the Senate health committee will let children be covered by their parents' policy until the age of 26, since first jobs after high school or college often don't offer health benefits.
To accomplish all of this, we have to cut the costs of health care. For families who've seen health-insurance premiums more than double -- from an average of less than $6,000 a year to nearly $13,000 since 1999 -- one of the most controversial features of reform is one of the most vital. It's been called the “public plan.” Despite what its detractors allege, it's not “socialism.” It could take a number of different forms. Our bill favors a “community health-insurance option.” In short, this means that the federal government would negotiate rates -- in keeping with local economic conditions -- for a plan that would be offered alongside private insurance options. This will foster competition in pricing and services. It will be a safety net, giving Americans a place to go when they can't find or afford private insurance, and it's critical to holding costs down for everyone.
I believe the bill will pass, and we will end the disgrace of America as the only major industrialized nation in the world that doesn't guarantee health care for all of its people.
Hatch criticized its passage. Calling the bill “partisan,” Hatch asserted in a July 15 statement that “we have another trillion dollar Democratic bill that will impose a job-killing employer tax, create another government-run health care program and give Washington bureaucrats more power than ever before to dictate health care for families in Utah and across the nation.”
Karl also used video of town hall from before Kennedy's death to question whether his death inspired “newfound unity”
Karl said town hall occurred “last night,” but it actually occurred on the afternoon of August 25, before Kennedy's death. In addition to uncritically airing Hatch's quote, Karl claimed that if “last night's town hall meeting in Phoenix is any indication” of whether Kennedy's death will “inspire newfound unity on health care reform,” “the answer seems to be no.” But the video Karl aired to support his claim was from an August 25 event that occurred before Kennedy's death, not from “last night.”