Few healthcare laws have been enacted in the past 25 years without bearing at least a fingerprint of Sen. EDWARD KENNEDY (D-Mass.).
His sometimes-partisan, sometimes-cooperative lawmaking posture has accomplished such victories as health insurance portability legislation and Senate passage of managed-care reforms.
"As long as he's sitting in the U.S. Senate, nothing will pass through unless he's a part of it," says Herb Kuhn, vice president of advocacy at Premier hospital alliance, San Diego.
When he was chairman of what is now the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Kennedy was one of the few to achieve bipartisan support for former President Clinton's healthcare reform plan. That effort sank when Clinton insisted on passing a Democratic bill.
Kennedy's legislative accomplishments on healthcare in recent years have come with a distinct bipartisan flavor as Democrats fell out of the majority in the Senate only to regain it this year. He teamed up with former Sen. Nancy Kassebaum (R-Kan.), who took the health committee gavel from him in 1995, to pass the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.
With Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Kennedy sponsored legislation to increase federal cigarette taxes by $1.50 per pack to be used to subsidize children's health insurance programs. And he won passage of managed-care reform legislation with the help of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).