Statement by APTA President in Memory of Sen. Edward Kennedy

August 28, 2009

Senator Edward Kennedy was uniquely prolific in addressing the health care concerns of Americans. During his five decades of service in the U.S. Senate, Sen. Kennedy has literally had a hand in every area of health care policy, from access, research, and coverage to technology and financing. He was a steadfast champion for patients and health care professionals alike, and he was a true friend of physical therapy. Here are just some of his accomplishments:

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. In 1975 Sen. Kennedy was an original cosponsor of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, which later became the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. This law requires a free and appropriate public education for children with disabilities in every state and ensures access to essential services, including physical therapy.

The Americans with Disabilities Act. In 1990 Sen. Kennedy played a key role in the enactment of legislation prohibiting discrimination against any qualified individual with a disability in job application procedures, hiring or discharge, compensation, advancement, or training.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. In 1996 Sen. Kennedy, with former Sen. Nancy Kassebaum (R-KS), sponsored legislation guaranteeing continuation of health insurance coverage for millions of Americans who change or lose their jobs.

The Family Opportunity Act. In 2006 Sen. Kennedy sponsored legislation enabling states to expand Medicaid coverage for children with special needs, allowing low- and middle-income families with children with disabilities to purchase coverage under Medicaid. For many such children, Medicaid is the only health insurance program offering sufficient benefits to cover required care, such as physical therapy, and medical equipment.

The Higher Education Opportunity Act. In 2008 Sen. Kennedy worked with Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) to pass legislation reauthorizing the Higher Education Opportunity Act for the first time in a decade. This Act identified physical therapists as professionals in an occupation of national need and thus eligible for enhanced loan repayment resources.

Senator Edward Kennedy was a man of uncommon compassion who had an extraordinary ability to 'reach across the aisle' to enact laws on behalf of patients and those who care for them. With deepest gratitude and respect APTA honors his life and service to us all.

APTA President R. Scott Ward, PT, PhD