Ted Kennedy's Death a Loss for Democratic Health Care Push

That mantra still rings true with many physicians around the country, but not necessarily with everyone in health care.

"Ted Kennedy was a person of many talents," said Dr. Henry Miller, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and a leader in biomedical research and pharmaceuticals.

"He worked hard and passionately to advance the extreme left-wing values that he held, and was known for doing his homework and hiring able staffers," Miller continued. "However, he never let facts or scientific or economic principles get in the way of his socialist ideology and do-gooder mentality."

Still others in the health care field were supportive of his mission.

"Those of us who work in busy, overcrowded emergency departments functioning as safety nets for the millions of Americans who have no insurance coverage know how desperately this nation needs healthcare reform. Ted Kennedy has always championed this cause," said Dr. Joseph Ornato, chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Kennedy retreated to Massachusetts following his brain tumor diagnoses in May 2008, but he remained in the fray through op-ed pieces and colleagues said he closely monitored the health care debate in newspapers and on C-Span. Friends said Kennedy's absence from the debate was painful for him and he hoped to be able to partake in the discussions at some point.

Kennedy handed the reins of the health committee to Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, who kept in touch with him on Senate proceedings but that became increasingly difficult as Kennedy had problems communicating.

"His committee was very instrumental by passing a health care bill out in June... and he was involved in that," said White House adviser David Axelrod on "GMA." "He was to the end very much interested and very much committed to seeing this become a reality."

Kennedy envisioned a system of universal health care but was willing to compromise as long as the agenda was furthered.

Kennedy's Bipartisan Work

"The essence of his legislative record is that he understood life in the arena meant compromise," Newsweek editor and presidential historian Jon Meacham said on "GMA." "He believed in getting things done."

One example of such compromise was the Massachusetts health care plan. Kennedy, a key architect of the plan, compromised essentially on the single payer plan he was pushing just so the plan would move forward, ABC News Medical Editor Dr. Timothy Johnson said.

"He looked very hard for common ground... He was willing to make a compromise," Shrum said. "He would get as much as he could to try to advance the goals."

See photos of Sen. Ted Kennedy's life.

See photos of the Kennedy family's history of privilege and loss.

At the height of his career, Kennedy was favorably associated with health care reform. In 1978, when he pushed then President Carter to come up with a national health program, Kennedy was favored by 44 to 25 percent in a Time magazine poll. And in a November 1979 ABC News poll, Kennedy had a 65 percent favorable rating for his ability to handle health care.

"This is the cause of my life," Kennedy said at an emotional speech at the Democratic National Convention in August 2008 while endorsing then candidate Obama. He spoke of "new hope that we will break the old gridlock and guarantee that every American … will have decent, quality health care as a fundamental right and not a privilege."

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