Kennedy taps ex-legislator as adviser
WASHINGTON - Senator Edward M. Kennedy has tapped a former Massachusetts legislator and prominent healthcare activist to be his chief adviser on health reform, a move Kennedy's office said was aimed at developing a nationwide universal healthcare plan after the presidential election.
John McDonough, a former state House member, was a key player in crafting Massachusetts' mandatory health insurance plan. But McDonough said he will not necessarily advocate such a plan for the nation as a whole.
"There's a lot of [the Massachusetts law] that is applicable to other states and worthy of federal consideration," McDonough said in an interview yesterday. "There is an awful lot that is not. I would make no assumptions about what is portable and what is not."
Senator Hillary Clinton has proposed a federal plan that includes a requirement that Americans purchase health insurance, a mandate she says is necessary to ensuring universal care and lowering healthcare costs. McDonough's new boss has endorsed Clinton's rival for the Democratic nomination, Senator Barack Obama, whose healthcare plan focuses more on affordability.
McDonough, who teaches at the Harvard School of Public Health, will leave his job as executive director of Health Care for All, a citizens' health advocacy group. He said he was thrilled to become a staff member for Kennedy.
"I feel like I'm being recruited for the 2004 Red Sox," McDonough said. "I feel honored to be part of his team."
Kennedy members said the Massachusetts senator believes that either Clinton or Obama will win the White House in November, giving Democrats a rare chance to pass a universal healthcare plan that has eluded advocates for decades. Clinton pushed a healthcare reform proposal while her husband, Bill Clinton, was president, but it failed to pass in the Republican-led Congress.
Democrats are expected to retain control of both chambers of Congress after the elections, and Kennedy staff members believe either Obama or Clinton would be able to push through some kind of healthcare legislation.
"John is one of the most experienced and respected healthcare experts in the country, and I'm delighted that he's joining us," Kennedy said. "Quality, affordable healthcare for all Americans is one of the central challenges of our time, and I'm confident that John will make an enormous difference to that cause."