Too often, there are stories about people who don’t go to the doctor when they are feeling unwell because they are afraid they won’t be able to afford it. It’s a valid concern, but nobody in a country as prosperous as the U.S. should be afraid to check if they’re healthy. Recently, politicians have been debating how to make health care more accessible, but it needs to go further than that: health care needs to be guaranteed as a right for all Americans.
Health care isn’t listed as a right in the U.S. Constitution or the majority of state constitutions, but it’s time to consider why that is. In the Declaration of Independence, the Founding Fathers wrote that all men are endowed with “unalienable Rights,” including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. How does being treated for your health not fall under one of these categories, if not all of them?
Some will say that an emergency room can’t turn someone away if they are in danger, and that’s true, but there is more to health care than a sudden heart attack or injury. What about the people that need cancer treatment but don’t have health insurance? They can either forego treatment or rack up a debt they may never be able to pay.
It would be virtually impossible to get an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to guarantee health care, but until it becomes possible, we need to treat health care like it is a right, out of basic human decency. It shouldn’t be a privilege just to survive and live a healthy life in one of the richest countries on the planet.
There needs to be universal health care in the U.S., funded by the government. Of course, there is always the question of how to pay for it. But if billions of dollars can be spent on military vehicles that sit in garages and break down often, then the country can find a way to pay for health care. On an individual level, the money may be taken out of taxes, but it’s important to remember how many people already have health insurance taken out of their paychecks. Everything has a trade-off, but this is one that’s worth it.
However, it’s disturbing how much is framed by cost in this country, and not basic compassion. The reason we find a way to give such a large budget to the military is because we “need it.” But this is something we need too. If someone is willing to let families accrue crippling debts to be healthy, shouldn’t it be acceptable for the country to spend a little bit to help everyone out?
This is further established by the fact that it seems every other developed country on the planet has managed to implement systems that guarantee health care for all. Every “highly developed country” on the Human Development Index has some form of public health care except for America. Canada, Australia, Japan, much of South America and virtually all of Europe have universal health care. We can’t claim American exceptionalism if we can’t figure out a way to do something that the rest of the world has already figured out.
Society benefits from a healthy population. It’s time to recognize that we need to start taking better care of the American people, and catch up with the rest of the world by guaranteeing we can get to the next day without worrying about how we will stay healthy.