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United States Senator Ted Kennedy, one of the nation's longest and hardest-fighting advocates to provide health care everyone and patient rights, hired one of the architects of Massachusetts' individual health insurance mandate today.

In the Boston Globe:

Senator Edward M. Kennedy has tapped a former Massachusetts legislator and prominent healthcare activist to be his chief adviser on health reform, a move Kennedy's office said was aimed at developing a nationwide universal healthcare plan after the presidential election.

John McDonough, a former state House member, was a key player in crafting Massachusetts' mandatory health insurance plan. But McDonough said he will not necessarily advocate such a plan for the nation as a whole.

"There's a lot of [the Massachusetts law] that is applicable to other states and worthy of federal consideration," McDonough said in an interview yesterday. "There is an awful lot that is not. I would make no assumptions about what is portable and what is not."

Senator Hillary Clinton has proposed a federal plan that includes a requirement that Americans purchase health insurance, a mandate she says is necessary to ensuring universal care and lowering healthcare costs. McDonough's new boss has endorsed Clinton's rival for the Democratic nomination, Senator Barack Obama, whose healthcare plan focuses more on affordability.

So are they going to try and force all Americans to purchase health insurance (like both supported in Massachusetts) or not? Hard to tell. Here's the thing: I believe McDonough, and a whole host of other long-time patient advocates in Massachusetts, really do want quality, affordable health care for everyone. Many of them probably even honestly believe that this mandate business is getting them closer to that goal. But Massachusetts' experience is proving them wrong, where costs are ballooning and the possibly 300,000 that remain uninsured make it pretty clear that the plan isn't quite as affordable or desireable as proponents would like to think.

So I'm glad to hear that Senator Kennedy's putting his game plan
together for when it's 'green light - GO' on health care next year. I just hope he realizes that it's impossible to guarantee affordability without regulating
the cost of health insurance, and go forward from
there.