Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) called on President Carter yesterday to set "a target date [for] this year" for submitting national health insurance legislation to Congress.
Kennedy's speech, prepared for delivery before the United Auto Workers convention in Los Angeles, reflects the growing impatience that supporters of national health insurance feel with the administration's agenda in the health area.
Citing energy, welfare and tax reforms as problems the Carter administration has begun dealing with, Kennedy warned that "health reform is in danger of becoming the missing promise in the administration's plans."
Carter promised last April to have a program ready for submission to Congress by inauguration day if he were elected. In a speech before the Student National Medical Association, Carter said that he wanted improved health care, for the neediest at first, "with the understanding that it will be a comprehensive program in the end.'
The administration has submitted a bill to Congress calling for controls on rising hospital costs. According to White House and administration sources, the current plan is for national health insurance legislation to be introduced early next year.
Kennedy, UAW President Leonard Woodcock and Rep. James C. Corman (D-Calif.) met privately two weeks ago with Health, Education and Welfare Secretary Joseph A. Califano Jr. and his undersecretary, Hale Champion, to urge the administration to move more quickly on presenting its national health insurance program. Califano reportedly said that Congress had its hands full dealing with welfare reform and revisions of Social Security funding.
In an apparent allusion to Califano's argument, Kennedy said, "The American people should not tolerate delay on health by Congress simply because other reforms are already lined up bumper to bumper . . . "
Kennedy, co-sponsor with Corman of a national health insurance bill, promised that his Senate Health Subcommittee "will report out legislation in the present Congress" and that the issue will be debated on the Senate floor.