Health Care Profiles: Kennedy, Daschle and Kratovil
News reports this weekend explored some prominent personalities in health reform, as well as a new one. Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., continues to battle brain cancer at home, but his illness has taken on symbolic proportions in the debate. Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., dropped out of a bid to lead the debate for Democrats, but has kept a hand in the scrum. Sen. Arlen Specter discusses end-of-life care and the VA. Meanwhile, a junior member of Congress, Rep. Frank Kratovil, D-Md., describes the travails of centrism in the health care fight.
Politico: Sen. Kennedy's lifelong advocacy for health care reform may be summed up in a core belief he outlined in a recent Newsweek column: "Every American should be able to get the same treatment that U.S. senators are entitled to." However, Politico points out, "The uncomfortable truth is that most concepts about lowering health care costs involve patients becoming more disciplined about resisting the kinds of aggressive medical treatments Kennedy has pursued." Kennedy's own case sheds "light on the cost-versus-benefit questions that need more honest discussion" (Cummings, 8/23).
The New York Times: Daschle, after withdrawing, in the midst of tax troubles, his nomination to be health secretary, "still speaks frequently to the president, who met with him as recently as Friday morning in the Oval Office." He's also a "highly paid" policy expert at Alston & Bird, a lobbying firm with health industry clients such as hospitals and drug makers. Daschle says he delivers the same "message" in every health care conversation, and therefore sees no conflict of interest. Critics counter that his inside connections give "Alston & Bird's health care clients privileged insights" (Kirkpatrick, 8/22).
Politico: "Former White House adviser Jim Towey called a medical planning guide distributed to wounded soldiers a 'fundamentally flawed' guide that sets a 'dangerous slippery slope' and encourages veterans to pull the plug on themselves. Appearing on 'Fox News Sunday,' Towey, the former director of the White House Office on Faith-Based Initiatives under George W. Bush, said the 52-page guide is 'a poor document' and should be thrown out by the Veterans' Administration. ... Appearing on the same program, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) said he would like to hold hearings on the topic when Congress returns from recess" (Parnes, 8/23). Fox News has a transcript of the discussion.
The Baltimore Sun: Kratovil "is caught in the middle of the biggest legislative fight in recent memory: the national brawl over health care. On one side are his party's leaders in Congress and President Barack Obama, whose supporters helped Kratovil become the first Eastern Shore Democrat elected to the House in 20 years." On the other, are the conservative voters in his district, where many oppose health reform and hope to replace Kratovil in next year's election (West, 8/23).