2018

29 March 2017: Health care is a human right

Let’s be clear and unequivocal before myth morphs into alternative fact: Health care is a human right. Period. It comes with being human. It’s not a privilege, a benefit procured depending upon one’s employment or financial situation.

Health insurance isn’t natural; it’s a man-made phenomenon. Not only not a right, it’s an arbitrary and capricious construction designed not to deliver more healthy and efficient health services but for something coldly objective: Profit.

In America, the health insurance industry has established a monopoly over health care. To enhance its profits, the industry does what any monopoly does: It controls the gateway between consumers and their needed product.

A persons’ state of health and maintenance thereof, while analogous to, is not morally equivalent to maintaining one’s computer or car. To equate them is profane.

Health insurance is an industry like no other since it profoundly traffics in a most essential aspect of one’s humanity, one might call a sacred space. To equate health insurance with any other insurance—auto, home, even life—is to obfuscate. No one needs to own a vehicle or home or to buy life insurance, which, while recommended, is designed for beneficiaries to benefit off a loved one’s demise. Each remains an option.

Contrarily, everyone “owns” a body and mind, both a crapshoot at birth. I know no one born with a perfect one, other than, of course, our dear leader. All others are flawed and require interventions that transcend even the highest degree of maintenance: sound diet and exercise.

We have traditionally called Hippocrates, who lived in the fourth century BCE, the Father of Modern Medicine. Preceding Hippocrates by 2,000 years was the Egyptian physician Imhotep. After some research, I could not uncover evidence of a health insurance industry during the time of the pyramids’ construction, though undoubtedly lots of guys got seriously maimed building them, or in the world’s first democracy. Two thousand years after Hippocrates, pre- and post-Adam Smith, the avatar of the market economy, the same thing: no health insurance industry. Nonetheless, physicians all the while worked their skills according to the best science available.

Some like to interpret the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness line of our Declaration of Independence as justifying accumulation of wealth. Others see those ideals differently, including the right to marry regardless of sexual orientation. Nevertheless, let’s start with life, which seems to hold primary status since it comes first, in its literal sense. Besides, the other two are useless without it.

But let’s look at it in context of the Constitution, which, unlike the Declaration of Independence, has legal status. In the Preamble, there’s this nice little phrase: “to promote the general welfare.” Based on that, one can solidly argue that government not only has the power to intervene in the current health care crisis, but the obligation to. The reason is our health care delivery system, while beneficial to investors’ portfolios, is inimical, and injurious to the general health—welfare—of the nation.

Health insurance is predicated on winners and losers, dictated primarily by certain criteria including wealth, accidents and conditions of birth and life, poor life choices, and age. Accordingly, many are being deprived of their right to life because they cannot pay for life-sustaining treatments or are pre-Medicare old. Paradoxically, if one has the bucks, he/she can choose to lead a decadent lifestyle that allows him/her to go to pork because he/she has the moola to make it better despite it taxing an already overtaxed system.

Next, to state Americans are entitled to choose their health plans is a shibboleth. For most, there’s little if any choice. First, coverage is primarily tied to one’s workplace, which requires one having a job to be covered. The majority, fifty-six percent of Americans, are in that category, which means their “choice” comes down to choosing a plan with a prearranged insurer.

Second, for those not covered—e.g., small business owners, the unemployed—prohibitive costs and situations such as pre-existing diseases preclude individuals from accessing quality, affordable plans, which before Obamacare gave those folks one option: to suffer and die.

Next week, we’ll look at the evolution of the modern-day Gorgon, how the health insurance industry evolved in the mid-twentieth century then exploded like a mushroom cloud.

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