As the health care public relations battle continues, the Obama administration is making moves to reframe the health care debate as "a core ethical and moral obligation."
Rising inequity in U.S. society and the failure to recognize economic and social rights play a significant role in the domestic health care crisis. Our fragmented health care financing system is rife with problems that lead to a wide range of human right to health abuses. The most visible is the 47 million people with no form of health insurance, the most distressing is the number of preventable deaths, estimated by some to reach 101,000 people a year, simply due to shortcomings in the way health care is organized in the United States.
This crisis persists despite available resources to protect the right to health, and despite record levels of health care spending in the United States.
Low-income Americans and racial and ethnic minorities experience disproportionately higher rates of disease, fewer treatment options and reduced access to care. With unemployment on the rise, the disparities already apparent among these groups will continue to increase.
[T]here are questions that have yet to be raised, and they may be the most important ones to ask: Why would we continue a system in which the health needs of a human being are reducible to a commodity? How can we ensure that every American has equal access to a quality system that meets the fundamental needs for human health? How can we ensure that no matter what class, race, gender, or sexual orientation, our citizens will not be denied care or go bankrupt trying to pay for treatment of their illnesses?
A human rights approach focuses on the underlying purpose of the health care system. The core human rights demand is for outcomes consistent with internationally-recognized standards. Framing health care reform as a matter of right establishes a mechanism for government accountability and encourages public participation in the decisions that affect our lives and well-being.
Passage would end the shameful era in our nation's history when we discriminated against people for no other reason than that they were sick. A decade from now, we will look back in wonder that we once lived in a country where half of all personal bankruptcies were caused by illness, where Americans lacked the basic security of knowing that if they lost their jobs they wouldn't have to sell the house to pay for the medical treatments to keep them alive. We'll look back in wonder -- that is, if we pass the bill.