Kennedy's Health-Care Measure To Require Employers to Chip In

By Ceci Connolly
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 29, 2009

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) is circulating the outlines of sweeping health-care legislation that would require every American to have insurance and would mandate that employers contribute to workers' coverage.

The plan in the summary document, provided by two Democrats who do not work for Kennedy, closely resembles extensive changes enacted in the senator's home state three years ago.

In many respects it adopts the most liberal approaches to health reform being discussed in Washington. Kennedy, for example, embraces a proposal to create a government-sponsored insurance program to compete directly with existing private insurance plans, according to one senior adviser who was not authorized to talk to reporters.

The draft summary also calls for opening Medicaid to those whose incomes are 500 percent of the federal poverty level, or $110,250 a year for a family of four.

President Obama, meanwhile, is urging his most loyal supporters to reactivate the grass-roots machine that helped elect him and direct it toward health-care reform.

"If we don't get it done this year, we're not going to get it done," he said yesterday in a call to members of Organizing for America, the political group formed to advance his agenda. "And to do that we're going to need all of you to mobilize."

A top administration official said the White House expects Kennedy to unveil his bill Monday. A timetable released by Kennedy's office calls for Democrats on the Senate health committee to meet Tuesday, with a bipartisan session scheduled for Friday. Committee markups could begin June 16.

If the ailing lawmaker keeps to that ambitious schedule, it would put him ahead of several other Democratic leaders crafting health bills.

Kennedy spokesman Anthony Coley declined to discuss the summary document, saying, "We are still actively negotiating with members" of the committee, which Kennedy chairs. "There is no final policy."

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