Health Care Should Be A Human Right

by Ralph Scharnau

The human right to health care means that everyone gets the highest standard of care for physical and mental health. Individuals should receive this care regardless of age, disability, gender, sexual identification, geographical location, urban/suburban/rural domicile, political persuasion, religion/non-religion, workplace status, union affiliation, and income level. Adopting such a health care system in the United States would require eliminating present disparities and discriminations.

Health care ought to be free to all, no exceptions. It should be timely, acceptable, and appropriate. It relates as well to providing all medical services, sanitation, adequate food, affordable and decent housing, healthy working conditions, and a clean and sustainable environment. In short, universal health care can be conceived of as a human right and economic justice issue

According to recent polls, a majority of Americans now say that the federal government should be responsible for providing everyone with health care coverage. The January Pew Research polling puts that percentage at 60.

Medicare, for example, has been providing efficient health care for fifty years. It already operates more efficiently than private health plans. And Medicare spends only about two percent of its costs on overhead contrasted with private costs at about seven percent. Medicare also receives higher satisfaction ratings than private plans.

The other publicly-funded health care program, Medicaid, today provides assistance to one in five Americans. It provides assistance to four out of ten American children. It helps cover the costs of nearly half of all births, nearly two-thirds of nursing home residents, and 10 million children and adults with mental and physical disabilities. Many people know someone covered by Medicaid. For states, Medicaid accounts for 60 percent of federal funding

Despite the reach and importance of Medicare and Medicaid, the GOP congressional leadership and the Trump administration seem determined to end government-run health care and establish a private “free market” system based on profit taking. GOP proposals to privatize Medicare and to block-grant Medicaid will take resources away from working and poor families. And health care will loom large in the upcoming showdowns over the federal budget and taxes, where food, housing, and other public assistance health programs (like Medicare, Medicaid, and Children’s Health Insurance) will also be at stake.

Without even conducting any public hearings, the Republican-dominated House of Representatives recently rushed through to passage a health care bill. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that under this Republican health-care plan 14 million people will lose coverage in the first year and 24 million by 2026, leaving a stunning 52 million Americans uninsured. Older Americans would face rising costs with fewer subsidies, and millions would be tossed off Medicaid.

Since 2009, each session of Congress has witnessed a Democratic-sponsored bill named the United States National Health Care Act. The objective of the proposed legislation is to create a publicly funded agency dedicated to managing our national health insurance, free of the influence of U.S. politicians and 50 sets of state lawmakers. Such a federal agency would seek to offer health care based on universality, morality, and fairness.

This new health care system should ensure that the most ill and vulnerable men, women, and children in the U.S. have access to adequate health care. Compared to other industrialized countries, our health care system is costlier, more inefficient, and less fair. The time has certainly arrived to fix our broken health care system, replacing it with one that is simpler to understand, covers everyone, saves lives, and would cut our health care costs in half.

Ralph Scharnau


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