Without Kennedy, healthcare providers fear loss of benefactor

The senator gave crucial support not only to national legislation but also to hospitals, universities, and research centers in his home state.

The death of Sen. Edward Kennedy is rippling throughout the healthcare community, prompting questions about not just the future of the health bill pending in Congress but also of various programs that the senator championed for so long.

The question comes amid a larger array of concerns over the aftermath of Kennedy’s death, with a special election set for Jan. 19 to determine who will serve out the rest of his term ending in 2012, as the Christian Science Monitor reported.

Many healthcare providers worry that they have lost an irreplaceable benefactor, according to the Boston Globe.

Hospitals, universities, life sciences companies, and research centers - which together provide hundreds of thousands of jobs in the state - all were accustomed to turning to Kennedy for help.As chairman of the Senate committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, he was in an ideal position to deliver on their requests for assistance. And as a powerful member of the Armed Services Committee, he defended and promoted the state’s technology-based defense sector.
“He kind of protected us in a sense,’’ said Thomas Glynn, chief operating officer of Partners HealthCare, which includes Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “The question is five years from now will [hospitals] be getting as much money as they would if he were alive. I doubt it."

Even with Kennedy’s fiery stewardship, the broader US healthcare agenda was mired in a stalemate, as the New York Times notes:

Democrats have serious internal differences on how to approach health care, and Republicans and Democrats remain deeply divided on the policy proposals — a gulf some say Mr. Kennedy was uniquely equipped to bridge.

But some see in Kennedy’s death a new opportunity, the Miami Herald reports:

In the wake of his death, however, several key Democrats on Wednesday saw a chance to break this year's stalemate by invoking his legacy and last wishes.
“In his honor and as a tribute to his commitment to his ideals, let us stop the shouting and name calling and have a civilized debate on healthcare reform, which I hope, when legislation has been signed into law, will bear his name for his commitment to [ensuring] the health of every American,'' Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., said in a statement.
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