According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 33 million people in the U.S. did not have health insurance in 2014. Universal health care is a highly controversial issue. Conservatives fear universal health care will lead to increased debt, taxes, a decrease in the quality of medical treatment and doctor’s pay, and ultimately to socialism. Liberals claim all Americans are entitled to healthcare. They state healthcare is a constitutional right and that instituting the right to healthcare has major economic and public health benefits. In this post, I will discuss the Liberals’ perspective and in my next post I will discuss the Conservative’s viewpoint.
We all are familiar with the section of the Declaration of Independence that gives men the unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Liberals contend that this includes the right to health care. They also argue the Constitution protects American’s rights to health care when it pledges in the preamble to, “promote the general welfare” of the people. According to former Congressman Dennis Kucinich, efforts to “promote the general welfare”, include healthcare as “…a legitimate function of government”. 1*
Liberals claim healthcare is an internationally recognized human right. The United States, along with 47 other countries, signed the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights document in 1948. This document declared that, “everyone has the right to standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of oneself and one’s family, including…medical care.” 1* The U.S. and Mexico are the only nations belonging to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) who have yet to jump on the universal health care bandwagon. Liberals argue that by denying U.S. citizens universal health care, they are denying them a human right.
Pope Francis agrees by stating, “Health is not a consumer good, but rather a universal right, and therefore access to health care services cannot be a privilege.” 1* Also, in a Journal of the American Medical Association article, Physicians for National Health Program claimed, “Access to comprehensive health care is a human right. It is the responsibility of society, through its government, to assure this right. Coverage should not be tied to employment. Private insurance firms’ past record disqualifies them from a central role in managing health care.” 1*
In addition to granting U.S. citizens their human rights, Liberals argue universal health care would result in significant economic benefits. According to a 2013 study, under universal health care, total public and private health care spending could be lowered by $592 billion in 2014 and up to $1.8 trillion over the next decade due to lowered administrative and prescription drug costs. 1* According to a study in the American Journal of Public Health, Canada (a country that provides a universal right to health care, spends half as much per capita on health care as the United States).
Liberals also argue that universal health care would increase the affordability of health care. A peer-reviewed study in Health Affairs found that between 2003 and 2013, the cost of family health insurance premiums has increased 80% in the U.S. Also, the Kaiser Family Foundation reports that 58% of people studied reported that they delayed or did not seek medical care due to cost.
Finally, Liberals claim providing universal healthcare would save lives and improve public health. A 2012 study in the Lancet analyzed data from over 100 countries found that, “broader health coverage generally leads to better access to necessary care and improved population health, particularly for poor people.” According to a 2008 peer-reviewed study in the Annals of Internal Medicine, there were 11.4 million uninsured working-age Americans with chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes, and their lack of insurance was associated with less access to care, early disability, and even death.” 1* According to a 2009 study from Harvard researchers, “lack of health insurance is associated with as many as 44,789 deaths per year”, which translates into a 40% increased risk of death among the uninsured.
Registered Nurse and CEO of the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses Lynn Erdman stated in a Huffington Post article, “It is clear that absence of insurance contributes to lack of access to basic health care services that help keep people well. People who are uninsured are at greater risk for negative health consequences.”
To conclude, Liberals believe health care is an unalienable human right granted by both the Constitution and the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights document. They also affirm universal health care reaps major economic and public health benefits. Liberals claim that failing to institute universal health care will lead to a decline in public health and the economy. But, perhaps most importantly, they claim it will lead to a decline in our nation’s morality.