We Believe Healthcare is a Human Right, Not a Commodity

This article is taken from emailed information sent by the Demand Dignity Campaign of Amnesty International USA

In October 2008, President Obama affirmed that health care should be a right, not a privilege. In so doing, he echoed the values of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the international conventions, which hold that every human being has the right to health including health care.  Elected officials in the United States – especially President Obama, his administration, and the current Congress, but also policymakers at the state and local levels – have a historic opportunity to make good on the president’s affirmation by recognizing and treating health care as a right, and not a commodity.

Amnesty International USA believes that health care is a right, not a privilege or a commodity. At a time of uncertainty in health care reform, Congress should take guidance from these human rights principles:

1. Universality: This means that everyone in the United States has the human right to health care. Reform measures should ensure that every person has access to comprehensive, quality health care. No one should be discriminated against on the basis of income, health status, gender, race, age, immigration status or other factors.

2. Equity: This means that benefits and contributions should be shared fairly to create a system that works for everyone. Health care is a public good, not a commodity. Gaps in the health care system should be eliminated so that all communities, rich and poor, have access to comprehensive, quality treatment and services.  Publicly financed and administered health care should be expanded as the strongest vehicle for making healthcare accessible and accountable.

3. Accountability: This means that the U.S. government has a responsibility to ensure that care comes first. All players in the health care system, whether public or private, have human rights obligations, and must be accountable to the people.  The U.S. government is ultimately responsible for ensuring that both public agencies and private companies make health care decisions based on health needs, not on profit margins or other factors.

These principles are endorsed by Amnesty International, USA as well as other organizations.

Amnesty also believes that public programs are the best vehicles for making health care accessible and accountable, and they should be expanded and strengthened.  Medicare treats health care as a public good, rather than as a commodity or a privilege.  Medicaid and community health centers help ensure that all members of our society have access to care, regardless of ability to pay. These programs also fight inequities that hurt women, who face disproportionate barriers to obtaining private health coverage.        The political landscape has changed, but what we’re fighting for has not – the human right to health care.  Although President Obama has urged Congress to pass the health care legislation on the table, the future of reform remains deeply uncertain.  Last week’s special election in Massachusetts has forced Congressional leadership to chart a new course.  With current proposals in question, now is a crucial opportunity to move.  We must push for simple yet meaningful reform measures that will bring us closer to making the human right to health care a reality for all in the United States.  Support health care reform that serves the public good, not the insurance companies.   Expand Medicare, Medicaid and community health centers.

We are in an uncertain moment in the fight to reform American health care. This is not the time to wait and see.  Let’s remind our elected officials what progress looks like.  It’s time to keep fighting for health care for all.

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