Sen. Ted Kennedy: a giant in the Senate

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People are capable of doing extraordinary things.

Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) proved that this week when he flew—against doctors’ wishes— to the Senate to cast his vote for the Medicare bill. Even his detractors were awed.

Arriving in the late afternoon, he was escorted into the chamber by Sens. Harry Reid (D-NV) and Barack Obama (D-IL). Many were moved to tears by his presence.

“I return to the Senate today to keep a promise to our senior citizens – and that’s to protect Medicare,” the senator said in a statement. “Win, lose or draw, I wanted to be here. I wasn’t going to take the chance that my vote could make the difference.”

The senator, who was diagnosed with brain cancer in May, did make a difference. Republicans, who were unaware of his return, were not prepared for Democrats to have enough votes to pass H.R. 3661, the Medicare Improvement for Patients and Providers Act of 2008. They caved and the measure passed 69-30. It is this bill that would reinstate the exceptions process for Medicare Part B therapy caps and eliminate a 10.6% cut in doctor payments. Healthcare providers clearly have a champion.

His act was not only courageous, for his health’s sake, it was also bold politically (and an impressive checkmate to Republicans). It is all too easy to get jaded by the gridlock that grips Washington. His display was an important symbol that there is heart behind the work that lawmakers do.

Reid, who engineered the operation, also deserves praise. He was not able to push through the much-needed vote before the Fourth of July recess, disappointing nursing home providers, doctors and others in healthcare. He clearly worked to fix that in the ensuing days.

You don’t see acts of heroism very often in the halls of Congress. That is all the more reason to acknowledge them when they do take place.
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McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Emily Mongan.

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