This month, those quadrennial effusions of hokum and hoopla, the national party political conventions, are upon us again. Nowadays their proceedings are carefully staged for TV, and same-party politicians who castigated each other in February will exchange the equivalent of on-camera valentines. Still, the remarks from the rostrum bear listening to — when the ratings-hungry networks deign to cut to the rostrum at all.
We may not hear much from San Diego or Chicago about the 40 million Americans who remain without health insurance. The ambitious universal coverage plan drawn up by President Clinton, his wife Hillary and an intimate, closed-door group of more than 500 health care experts in 1993 to give those uninsured Americans some relief sputtered to an ignominious demise in the halls of Congress. And the Republicans who now preside over those halls may not be any more eager to remind us of this still-unsolved problem than the First Couple are to refresh our memory of how they blew it.
There may be a bit of self-congratulation in both balloon-filled halls, however, for a measure that is apparently headed for a quick Clinton signature as this issue of Managed Care goes to press. That is a law to assure portability of employees' health coverage when they change or lose jobs and to guarantee access to coverage, after a waiting period, for those same workers even if they have pre-existing medical conditions.
The new law is tagged with two names: that of the Democrat who lost to the man who lost to Ronald Reagan in his 1980 landslide election, and that of the daughter of the Republican who lost to Franklin Roosevelt in his even bigger landslide re-election of 1936. But Kennedy-Kassebaum looks like a winner. Arguments will continue over what some say it should have done (parity for mental health?) and what others say it should have done more of (authorizing medical savings accounts?). But in the meantime, this modest measure merits a cheer.