Sen. Kennedy called it "the cause of my life" improving access to health care for the country's most vulnerable. He delivered his first Senate speech advocating universal health coverage 40 years ago and followed it up with decades of advocacy. His work helped lead to a range of programs: the Children's Health Insurance Program, which helps states insure low-income young people; the Women, Infants and Children nutritional program (WIC) and the Ryan White CARE Act, which funds treatment for under-insured HIV/AIDS patients. He also backed the COBRA Act, allowing employees to retain their health insurance after leaving a job.
Kennedy's dream, however, was to extend full health insurance to every American a dream that was dashed under everyone from Nixon and Carter to Clinton and Bush. The failure of President Clinton's 1994 health-care reform plan, in fact, was the greatest disappointment of his Senate career. Kennedy was too ill to participate in this summer's health-care battle on Capitol Hill, but expect reform advocates to regularly invoke his name as the momentous debate continues.
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