Unless and until the self-proclaimed “best country on Earth” ensures that all its citizens have affordable access to health care, there’s no scenario under which it can be considered a flourishing and fully-functioning state in the modern world.
How it came to be that health care is not considered a fundamental, absolute and inalienable human right boggles the mind. Without it, instead of citizens banding together to form a society of mutual advantage, what exists is akin to a wolf pack where the weakest and most vulnerable are left unprotected to be culled from that pack.
If one even needs to assert why health care is a basic human right, then that sad starting point is proof enough that outsourcing our lives to the private marketplace has failed. Only government is positioned to safeguard the well-being of its citizenry.
How is it that gun ownership became enshrined in the U.S. Constitution – mentioned second from the top, no less – and it was somehow left out that the people have a right to access available treatments, services and science that would sustain and save their lives?
Of course, the document was written at the latter part of the 18th century, when medical science wasn’t even in its infancy. Premature death and disease were accepted parts of daily life.
But let’s not get bogged down in the 1700s. Fast forward instead to the present day, The U.S. House and Senate are considering bills whose sole results – sole purposes? – are to dramatically reduce the number of Americans who have access to affordable health care, or health care in even its most basic form.
Because the American system of health care has always been employment-based, those who have good-paying and secure jobs have always had their care needs met. The cost has long been considered part of a worker’s overall compensation – even if not directly reflected in take-home pay.
There are three realities of modern working life that make that orientation a losing proposition.
- Continuing to rely on an employment-based health-care system is ludicrous when people will change jobs multiple times thorugh their lives. The notion of staying with the same company for 40 years or more is as antiquated as an episode of I Love Lucy.
- Millions of people work only part-time. Employers are limiting hours available to the workforce to save money by relieving themselves of the burden of providing the benefits related to full-time employment.
- The third element of this trifecta of doom is that millions have access only to low-paying jobs that don’t even feed, clothe and house their families – let alone leave a surplus to independently purchase health insurance on the open market.
America has met every challenge of its past, even when the odds were greatly stacked against it. The first step to address this challenge is to accept that universal access to health care is as fundamental to citizenship as the much-ballyhooed “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.”
It’s high time the United States knuckle-drags itself out of its cave and joins the 21st century. Every American man, woman and child deserves to have their health-care needs met – no matter the number of greenbacks in their pocket.
Only then will America become truly great.
Gavin MacFadyen is a Canada-raised, U.S.-based writer and occasional lawyer. Blending insight and wit, he brings a unique perspective to the issues of the day.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.