The late Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s message to the country after the Supreme Court upheld the national health care law last week would be to let the reforms take effect and move on to other business, his widow said Sunday.
“This health care reform was the cause of my husband’s life,” Vicki Kennedy said on ABC’s “This Week.” “He believed that it was a moral issue, that it defined the character of who we were as a society, who we were as a country, and that decent, quality, affordable health care should be a fundamental right and not a privilege.
“And now, all three branches of our federal government have affirmed that right,’’ she said. ‘’’ “And I think if Teddy were here, he would tell us, ‘Now it’s time to roll up our sleeves, get to work, fully implement the law and move on with the business of our country.’ ”
Vicki Kennedy’s description of health care reform as the “cause of [her] husband’s life” echoed a speech Ted Kennedy delivered at the Democratic National Convention in 2008, when he made an impassioned plea for sweeping changes. Kennedy had been diagnosed with brain cancer three months before the convention.
He died a year later, in August 2009, seven months before President Obama signed the national health care law.
Last Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled, 5 to 4, that the law is constitutional, with Chief Justice John Roberts casting the tie-breaking vote. Vicki Kennedy said her husband, unlike many other lawmakers, would not have been surprised that the conservative Roberts voted to preserve the law.
“He had studied this issue for more than 40 years,” Vicki Kennedy said. “He believed in it, he believed in its constitutionality, he had looked at it in every way, and I think he would have been pleased but not surprised.”
Vicki Kennedy acknowledged that the law still faces challenges before its full implementation in 2014. Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has pledged to try to repeal it, if elected.
But she pointed confidently to popular provisions of the law, including guaranteed insurance coverage for people with preexisting medical conditions, and predicted people will increasingly embrace the law as they understand and experience its impact.
“These are important benefits and as people know more and more about these, as they reap these benefits, they embrace them and it’s a very, very exciting day in America,” Vicki Kennedy said.