Thursday, August 27, 2009

1995 National MS Society's Senator of the Year

In 1995, US Senator Edward "Teddy" Kennedy was selected as the National MS Society's US Senator of the Year for his contribution to health care which has upheld a special focus on the rights of individuals with disabilities and chronic diseases. He was a sponsor and a key negotiator in the passage of the 1990 Americans with Disability Act, a strong proponent for biomedical research pushing for the expansion of NIH. And recently, Senator Kennedy has requested that the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program fund MS research.

It is well documented that Senator Kennedy's life-long goal was universal health care. Interestingly are the incremental but IMPORTANT programs and policies that he has lead to get us to this year's debate: the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (1996), Mental Health Parity (1996) and the State Children's Health Insurance Program (1997). Moreover, there are provisions in this year's bill that would not be included without his work, namely the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act (CLASS Act) which designs a national, voluntary disability insurance program to help applicable individuals and their families pay for services and supports that they need to maintain independence and functionality in order to be active participants in their communities.

For the last two days, I have been watching and reading the tributes to Senator Kennedy. I have enjoyed reading the documentation of his relationships with foes and friends that have moved American public policy. But mostly, I am awe inspired by his commitment to people living with disabilities and chronic illnesses.

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