San Diego, October 26, 2008
— Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., is being honored at the American Public Health Association’s (APHA’s) 136th Annual Meeting & Exposition with a special lifetime achievement award in recognition of his longstanding commitment to the health of Americans.
The APHA Executive Board voted earlier this year to recognize Kennedy with a special award for his service as a public health champion on such issues as Medicare, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, climate change, mental health parity and the plight of the uninsured.
“Senator Kennedy has done so much for public health, we all owe him a debt of gratitude,” said APHA Executive Director Georges C. Benjamin, MD, FACP. FACEP (E). “He has worked tirelessly to ensure the public’s health remained foremost on the national agenda and has spoken out time and again to ensure the underserved were not overlooked in the national health care debate.”
Kennedy began his battle to make quality health care accessible and affordable to every American as soon as he was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1962. Throughout his distinguished tenure, Kennedy has spoken out repeatedly on assisting individuals with disabilities, protecting clean water and clean air, and strengthening the Social Security and Medicare programs.
The senior Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Kennedy also serves on the Judiciary Committee, where he is the senior Democrat on the Immigration Subcommittee. He also serves as senior Democrat on the Armed Services Committee’s Seapower Subcommittee and is a member of the Congressional Joint Economic Committee and the Congressional Friends of Ireland.
This month, Kennedy applauded bipartisan congressional passage of mental health parity legislation that will require insurers to cover mental illness at the same level as physical illness. Adoption of the measure marks the end of a decade-long struggle led by Kennedy to ensure equality for mental illnesses in the health care system. “After 10 years of debate, Congress has finally agreed to end the senseless discrimination in health insurance coverage that plagues persons living with mental illness for so long,” Kennedy said in an Oct. 3 statement. “It’s a great day for everyone who believes in fairness and fundamental justice for all.”
In July, Kennedy praised Congress’ vote to override President Bush’s veto of a Medicare bill to avoid a 10.6 percent physician payment cut that would undermine access to the federal health program. He returned to the Senate to vote to cut off a Republican filibuster against the bill after a previous attempt to end the filibuster failed by one vote. Kennedy’s vote led to an end to the filibuster by a 69–30 vote, and the bill was sent to the president.
“Last week, by a veto-proof majority, the Senate demonstrated its intent to keep Medicare strong and effective for years to come,” Kennedy said in a July 15 statement. “I was proud to return to Washington and cast that important vote for our seniors. Today, Congress rightly overrode President Bush’s veto and renewed the promise of Medicare. It’s a great vote and a great day for America’s seniors.”
The youngest of nine children, Kennedy played football at Harvard and received a recruitment letter in 1955 from Green Bay Packers head coach Lisle Blackbourn to play professional football. He declined the offer, saying he had plans to attend law school and “go into another contact sport — politics.”
Kennedy continues to fight for relief from the exorbitant prices of many prescription drugs, universal health coverage and immigration reform.