About Healthcare, pt 1: Healthcare Should Be a Right

Last week, I had a bit of a Twitter rant thread after reading some posts by Senator John Cornyn:

Do you think Healthcare is a right? It is not spelled out as such in our Constitution. Why is that?

We’ve been doing research on doctors during that period of time. First, they clearly had a lot less knowledge then than we do now. In the 240+ years since the American Revolution began, the knowledge that we have discovered is incalculable.

For example, here are just a few of the major medical advancements in the first two hundred years of our nation:

1796 – Experiments with a means to protect against smallpox lead to the discovery of vaccines.

1842-6 – First implementation of anesthesia.

1870 – The establishment of the germ theory of disease.

1895 – Discovery of X-Rays.

1901 – Discovery of blood types.

1953 – Discovery of DNA.

1955 – Development of the Polio Vaccine.

1967 – First successful human heart transplant.

Back in frontier days, “rural settlers often had nothing to pay with except the fruits of their labor. Doctors would commonly be paid in cord wood, produce, meat, eggs, blankets or other items of value.” But treatment was never withheld due to lack of means. A family was just expected to pay what they could.

So a combination of little knowledge, and therefore few options, plus a doctor’s Hippocratic Oath made enumerating the right a moot point. In a sense, we started with universal healthcare if you lived near a doctor.

In the time since then, medical care has become a major money-making segment of our economy. Many people are employed by the industry and there are major profits made by corporations in the medical industry. It will not be an easy process to rework it without risking many jobs and without major lobbying resistance.

We’ve made so many advances in medical science, but much of that innovation has come in the US due to the investment by the capitalist model of medicine. Does that mean that innovation and discovery are stifled in a universal healthcare system? Studies suggest that would not be so, with proper funding of research by the government.

One of the biggest obstacles to universal healthcare in the US is how Republicans have formed the idea that choice equals freedom. If you lose choices, you lose some of your liberty. Just look at the Cruz amendment to the BCRA, being called the “Consumer Freedom Option”. But that is a perspective of privilege. Working class people often have no good choices – either have insurance that is very expensive or don’t and risk potentially suffering from that lack of it.

So the question remains: Is healthcare a right in the US? I believe so, but our current for-profit model will need to be dramatically reworked to achieve what we deserve – universal healthcare, covering every US citizen. As we get to that place, we must shore up the ACA in order to keep the most vulnerable covered as we make the major changes to get to the place where we cover every American, by right.

I plan to follow this article up with one that will address the ACA, including what needs to be done to fix it in the short term, and another about how we can get to our final destination of universal healthcare.

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