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Healthcare: A Right or A Privilege

Healthcare: A Right or A Privilege

Yes or No: Do you agree with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”

In 1948 the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was created. Article 25 states, “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services.”  Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right_to_health

The 115 Congress and President-elect Trump speak of removing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and privatizing Medicare and Medicaid. As a citizen and a nurse, you are called to consider: is health care a right or is health care a privilege? As a nurse in North Carolina, I see the inequities and feel the pain of the injustice as the state legislature refused to accept the Medicaid expansion funding that came with the ACA. (There are now 1/2 million without health care because of this.) The ripple effect touches every aspect of life in this state. The economy has fewer jobs, an increase of more than 24% of children under 18 living below the poverty level in the last 5 years. There are fewer health care providers and consequently, there is less care provided with the already worn caregivers shouldering more responsibilities. Perhaps most especially nurses…

The National, Economic, Social Rights Initiative writes:

  • The human right to health guarantees a system of health protection for all.
  • Everyone has the right to the health care they need, and to living conditions that enable us to be healthy, such as adequate food, housing, and a healthy environment.
  • Health care must be provided as a public good for all, financed publicly and equitably.

Take a minute and breathe. Contemplate privatizing health care. What are your thoughts and feelings about this? Is there a difference between health care and insurance care? What are the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual costs and benefits of each for our families, friends, our neighbors and the public in general? How does it impact your work?

Dr. Don McCanne

writes a daily health policy update, taking an excerpt or quote from a health care news story or analysis on the Internet and comments on its significance to the single-payer health care reform movement. On January 10, 2017 he commented on an interview of President Barack Obama by Ezra Klein and Sarah Kliff of Vox Video.

He writes:

Virtually everyone wants affordable access to health care, for themselves at least. Most want a better system than what we have under the Affordable Care Act. But the nation is divided as to whether ACA needs to be repealed prior to improving the functioning of our health care financing system.

So the point is that there is broad agreement that we want the system improved, but the Republicans, who are in control, are hamstrung by their anti-government ideology which prevents them from offering the government solutions that we would need that would actually be effective in improving the system.

Repealing ACA would further impair the functioning of our system, so the Republicans would have to introduce effective policies that would more than compensate for the deficiencies that would be created by repeal. Almost any piecemeal solution would require greater regulation and more government spending, anathema to the Republicans. Suggestions to date coming from their camp would leave us worse off than what we currently have. It is no wonder that they refuse to tell us what their replacement proposal would be.

If they really do want to improve the system, and they say they do, then they have two choices. Either provide beneficial tweaks to the current system, which will cost more and require greater regulation, yet fall far short of reform goals, or replace the current system with a single payer national health program – an improved Medicare for all. The latter would greatly improve the financing of health care, ensuring true universality, improved access, greater choice in care, and affordability for each and every individual. And we could do that without increasing spending above our current level.

The Republicans have an opportunity to provide us with a replacement program that would be vastly superior to building on our current dysfunctional system. Both President Obama and President-elect Trump have acknowledged the clear superiority of a single payer system. Most progressives, a majority of moderates and a plurality of conservatives agree. Now all the Republicans need to do is show us.

Engaging in these conversations is not easy. I work with nurses who say, “I‘m not political.”  However,  health care is not a spectator sport. It is about people’s lives- the quality, the safety, and the sanctity of life. If you believe that healthcare is a right, then figuring out how to make it affordable and accessible is a priority and you need to be at least informed and when you are moved by your conscience become active.

Medicare is not perfect, but it has made health care accessible to many of our loved ones. Why not expand it so our full society benefits? The slogan, “Medicare from womb to tomb” gives me hope.

Video: https://www.whitehouse.gov/videos/2017/January/20170106_President_Obama_Interview_with_Ezra_Klein_HD.mp4

Transcript:  https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/01/06/remarks-president-vox-live-interview

With love,


  • Elizabeth Scala January 16, 2017 at 9:34 am

    Thanks for sharing important information about health care and how nurses need to stay informed. I do think that as nurses we ought to stay current on health care policy. Thanks for sharing!

  • Cassandra Herbert January 17, 2017 at 5:29 am

    What a timely post in sync with honoring Dr. Martin Luther King day. You asked some thought provoking questions, which I appreciate. I do think there is a difference between health care and insurance care and the care that is being given is insurance care. But that’s because it’s part of the traditional medical system which addresses the symptoms and not the whole person. We have a long way to go to get to a health care type system. One that focuses on creating wellness instead of focusing on sick care. I agree with Elizabeth that as nurses it’s important for us to stay current on health care policy and to explore our thoughts and feeling around current polices as well as have challenging conversations around the topic.

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