The death of US Senator Edward Kennedy has brought the American healthcare issue into sharp focus.
President Barack Obama put healthcare at the top of the domestic agenda after Ted Kennedy, despite suffering from brain cancer, helped draft a bill to ensure the underprivileged get access to medical treatment.
“He was the champion for the people with no voice. The poor, the mentally ill, seniors especially. We pray now that the healthcare, a good healthcare package, can be passed,” said one Washington resident.
The cost of overhauling America’s healthcare is estimated at a trillion dollars, around 700 billion euros, over 10 years, is the subject of fevered debate on Capitol Hill.
Republican opponents fear – in light of expected record federal deficits – the far-reaching reform plan could bankrupt the government. Kennedy’s absence, through illness, from the corridors of power did nothing to assist the bill’s passage but Barack Obama is determined to see it through.
“We will pass reform that lowers cost, promotes choice and provides coverage that every American can count on and we will do it this year,” he told a press conference.
White House analysts believe Kennedy’s death may even help doubters make up their minds as some senators among the Democrats could feel obliged to pass the bill out of respect.
The US is still reeling from the effects of the global downturn, the welfare queues are long and the housing crisis has left many homeless.
An estimated 46 million Americans remain without guaranteed healthcare.