Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D) of Massachusetts proposed yesterday that all businesses be required to provide medical insurance for their workers and dependents. Senator Kennedy, chairman of the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, said businesses have been required since 1938 to pay a minimum wage to their workers ``and in 1987 it is time to insist that they provide at least a minimum health insurance, too.''
Kennedy made his remarks in a speech for the American Hospital Association, an organization of hospital administrators and trustees.
He said a minimum health benefit package does not mean that workers should have all their expenses paid or be given exotic benefits. ``It does mean basic coverage of hospital and physician bills, and it also means protection against catastrophic costs. No American worker should have the fear of serious illness compounded by the fear of financial ruin,'' he said.
``By pooling insurance costs ... we can bring the burden on individual businesses down,'' he said. And by doing so, he added, costs will actually be cut for all the small businesses that already insure their workers.