Healthcare: A Human Right

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and inhumane.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. – Second National Convention of the Medical Committee for Human Rights – Chicago, March 25, 1966

Haven’t we been arguing about this for a shamefully long period of time? If the U.S. is so “exceptional,” why are we lagging behind other industrialized nations when it comes to human rights – specifically healthcare?

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 25

  1. 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, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
  2. Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Everyone has the right to medical care and necessary social services. Universal health care. In 2010, the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative (NESRI) issued its Statement on Health Reform: Why the New Health Law Fails to Meet Human Rights Standards:

[T]he new health law fails to meet the key human rights standards of universality, equity, and accountability. Rather than guaranteeing universal health care, the law excludes many millions of people from access to coverage and care. Instead of ensuring that care is available for those who need it, the law makes access contingent on the purchase of private insurance. And rather than holding the private sector accountable for protecting the right to health, the law permits the industry’s focus on their bottom line. Health care is treated as commodity, not as a universal right and a public good shared equitably by all.

In “America’s Forgotten Civil Right – Healthcare,” Dan Munro cites fear as the biggest reason the United States of America has not adopted universal coverage as the very foundation of its healthcare system. He points to Germany as “a great example of a healthcare system that is both universal coverage and multi-payer” but goes on to say that “[p]laying into the politics of controversy and discord…serves well to fuel the fear that universal coverage is “Government-run” healthcare which is known to be vastly inferior, grossly inefficient – and forever shackled to long waits, huge bureaucracies and the final of all personal indignities – death panels.” Further, the U.S. likes to believe it is the shining example to the world on how best to do everything. It is galling to think that other countries might do some things better–that we might actually learn from them. And finally, we cling to the belief that this is the land of opportunity – where everyone can go from rags to riches if only they work  hard enough, and anyone who demonstrates otherwise is a loser with a capital “L.” I think that we focus so exclusively on the “cons” of any proposal that the “pros” get drowned out – or get left without coverage in the media, just as millions are left without healthcare coverage. This negativity spills over into our dealings with each other – rather than seeing healthcare as a right, and universal coverage as a solution to be worked on together, we find excuses to shoot down sound proposals that might actually work to the equal benefit of all.

The ACA is a start, but it still favors profit over people. And it cannot be an end in itself. But to those who are so violently opposed to it and would simply gut it or repeal it, I would urge reform – not throwing the baby out with the bath water. We should neither view the ACA as the be-all and end-all of healthcare reform, nor gut it for its flaws, simply because some parts of it fall far short of the ideal of universal healthcare that is treated as a right, not a privilege to those who can afford it. Dr. Philip Caper, no great fan of “Obamacare,” writes, in “Greed, fear and other barriers to health care as a human right,

As a physician, I have always thought that health care should be a human right. I believe there is a strong moral argument for health care systems that cover everybody. There is now a strong economic argument as well. Overwhelming evidence exists from all other wealthy countries that a simpler and therefore more efficient system is much less expensive and more humane than ours.

It is estimated that 25% of our current healthcare spending is wasted, due largely to complexity and the way we classify people for various tiers of coverage. So why don’t we simply adopt universal coverage? Dr. Caper believes it boils down to apathy on the part of people who already have coverage, fear of losing what we already have, ignorance of how the healthcare system actually works (or doesn’t), and greed on the part of those people and corporations that profit from the inefficiencies of our current system.

“You can depend upon the Americans to do the right thing. But only after they have exhausted every other possibility.”
Unidentified Irishman (as referenced in a 1970 U.S. Congressional Hearing)

If we Americans want to cling to our “exceptionalism,” we need to be exceptional – in a positive way. We need to demonstrate, once again, that human rights are our core value. We should not be afraid, or too proud, to study and learn from the best examples of other nations and improve even further upon the systems they’ve put into place. We need to be fearless, compassionate, and generous of spirit – because fear and miserly greed have no place in a country that sees itself as an “exceptional” beacon of hope and best practices – a leader on the world stage. The ACA is not our best; we can certainly do much better, if we work together with the shared belief in healthcare as a human right. Unfortunately, some would waste more time, effort, and money dismantling and destroying it than in fixing it.






Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle; A Puppy, Not a Guppy; Innocents & Demons; and A New Leaf for Lyle. You can find her books on Amazon at For more information on her children's books, please visit
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13 thoughts on “Healthcare: A Human Right”

  1. Yes, first of all, does the ACA have to be so many pages? It’s my thought that it is because too much stuff is hiding in there that should not be seen. Going through the pages and getting back to basics would be a great start.

    Of course, that would mean actually reading the whole thing, and lots of politicians don’t want to bother to do their jobs, just want the perks.

    Morgan Mandel

    1. Morgan, it’s a fairly boring read, actually. What I strongly dislike about any legislation like the ACA is the way it references existing laws and changes to them without stating in the body of the law exactly what it now says, as changed, in context. So you not only have to read it, you have to read the referenced statutes and figure out what the hell is going on.

      But I did read it – back when the whole issue of voting on it without reading it came up – and figured any law student worth his salt could give a decent summary of it and there was nothing nefarious there (nope, no “death panels” – sorry!! All that brouhaha over the fact that the Act provided coverage for an optional discussion with your doctor over the kinds of care you might want in old age and at the end of your life. You know, like, being put on a ventilator, or hospice care, or – whatever. Maybe you want to make more informed decisions when drafting a living will. But it’s YOUR CHOICE. And that discussion’s not mandated – just PAID FOR if you want to have it.) When I realized that, I realized there were some pretty evil people intent on spreading misinformation for their own ends – not in sincerely raising questions and improving the Act, but in destroying it outright through lies and fear.

      It was similar to the reaction I had, back in 2008, to an email that was going around smearing Obama on the basis of religion, education, and patriotism – saying, “If you don’t believe this, just check Snopes!” It had a link to Snopes, making it extra easy to do just that. Funny thing, though – when you clicked the link, it went to an article on Snopes that systematically debunked the entire letter. So not only did the folks spreading these bald-faced lies assume we’re all lazy and stupid – they were probably right about a lot of the recipients. And that made me mad. They were INTENTIONALLY spreading lies, and had a very NEGATIVE view of people. Which led to my reading the Texas Republican Party Platform (because in doing additional research, I found a YouTube video that made claims I was SURE had to be hysterical LIBERAL propaganda and stupidity). Nope – those claims were simply accurate. According to the TX Republican Party Platform, the reason the USA should support Israel is that God will SMITE us if we don’t. Oh, and they want to immediately tear up treaties and kick the UN off our land. Like yesterday.

      Guess they forgot all about their precious Constitution – and its freedom from government-established religion… if I were Hindu or Buddhist, I’d be really annoyed. 😉
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…We Hold These Truths to Be Self-Evident…My Profile

      1. Holly, this is HANDS DOWN the best comment I’ve read in a long time. Thank you for making me feel less alone in my line of thinking.

      2. Aw, thanks! I agree wholeheartedly. We need more thinkers, not more legislators. We need common man, not bought ones. We need to encourage education of our children and our voters.

        I have a ways to go, still feeling stuff out, still trying to find the middle ground where I don’t feel like going all Thai Parliment on people, but thank you. I promise the ride is just starting to get interesting.
        Connie recently posted…Thoughts on Government Shutdown: So You Wanna Repeal ACA?My Profile

      3. One problem I see with running – every tiny bit of your life will be examined under a microscope, spun by the opposition like blood in a centrifuge, and spit out in the court of public opinion. Is it any wonder we don’t get better candidates? Every phrase you utter will be scrutinized for the worst possible interpretation, lifted out of context, and used for others’ ends. Every facial expression will become someone’s stupid Internet meme.

        Are you really ready to sign on for that?
        Holly Jahangiri recently posted…We Hold These Truths to Be Self-Evident…My Profile

      4. I was bullied as a child and still am more successful than those folks. I’ve been wholly prepared for the scrutiny. 🙂

        It’s also why I call folks out now when they use stupidity to invalidate politicians, as if how pretty she looks today has anything to do with what she’s doing. Trolls are stupid and will be starved. 😉

        And I’m pretty good at making fun of myself.
        Connie recently posted…Thoughts on Government Shutdown: So You Wanna Repeal ACA?My Profile

  2. Hi Holly,

    Hope you’ll appreciate my comment here. I’m a Bangladeshi, and I’ve never visited United Sates. But, as a pharmacist, I often need to review and study Health Regulatory Guidelines by EU and US.

    With my five years experience in reviewing regulatory documents, I 100% agree that there is a big keyhole in US healthcare policy. In one hand, the US regulatory agency try to show the rest of the world that we follow stringent regulatory requirements. But, on the other hand, these stringent rules making things difficult for general population.

    Many of my countrymen who currently lives in America prefers not to raise their hefty hospital bills. Instead, they come back to their country once or twice a year and do their medical check up with only 10-20% of the amount that could be spent on US hospitals or clinics.

    However, the interesting fact is that they always go for the best doctors in here. And, these doctors are expensive for us, not for them.

    I hope now you could have an idea about what American Health Policy is cooking!
    Imtiaz Ibne Alam recently posted…How to Figure Out How Much Life Insurance You Need to BuyMy Profile

    1. Imtiaz, thank you for sharing your perspective! I really wish that more people were aware of the REAL differences in various healthcare systems, and that we would all get behind reform – without arguing and trying to hurt one another – and build the BEST healthcare system in the world. You know, we owe ourselves that, and I think we could do it.

      There’s a concept here, now – started out as “offshoring healthcare,” but when that sounded just too awful, became known as “medical tourism.” To make a long story short, many insurance plans will pay for a patient to travel, say, to India or the Philippines to have a procedure done more cheaply there.

      Now, I know several Indian and Filipino doctors, so this isn’t too alarming to me – and I wouldn’t mind visiting a country I’ve never been to – but seriously?? Sick people shouldn’t have to travel halfway around the world for more affordable care, nor should their insurance companies try to pressure them into doing so.

      I’ve also been to pharmacies in other countries. Do I honestly believe that the medications – with recognizable labels I’ve seen before – are knock-offs? One example: Augmentin. No. I don’t. And many are affordable (at full price, without insurance), and available without a prescription (which is a little nuts unless you consult a pharmacist, at least, or have a chronic condition and have taken that medication before). But there’s no reason drugs developed and manufactured in the US should cost as much as they do and be sold so cheaply OUTSIDE the US.

      Thank you, again, for your comment – please, join in the conversation here, any time!
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…Do You Like Your Own Stuff?My Profile

      1. Hi,

        Thanks for appreciating my comment. I really liked what you said about the fundamental differences in various healthcare systems.

        Well, I was not aware about the concept behind the “medical tourism”. It’s a kind of awful to hear that the government of the world’s no. 1 country knows everything but not taking any steps to stop their own people from getting out of the country for a treatment.

        Believe me or not, pharmaceutical manufacturing is a business of big profit. I’ve worked in three different pharmaceutical companies here. And, you would be shocked to know about the production cost!

        I know you often buy ranitidine from your local pharmacies, though I’m not sure about the price. But do you know what’s the production cost of 100 tablets? Its less than $1 USD (around 70 – 80 cents), including all the production and marketing expenses.

        I just totally shocked when I first calculated it while working in the production department. Maybe, you would say that there must be a big difference in raw materials. Well. Hell no! That just a bullshit marketing propagated by the big pharmaceuticals!

        I’ve personally compared five same drug of five different companies, including the product from Aventis and Novartis. Before testing, I was sure that there should be a significant difference in results. But no! Even HPLC (High Performance Liquid Chromatography) test results also showed nearly same results with no significant difference in tested drugs!
        Imtiaz Ibne Alam recently posted…The Facts & Figures on Substance Abuse in the United StatesMy Profile

      2. Imtiaz, thanks for all that great information! (I do not know why your replies are landing in my Spam folder, but you’re making me very glad I’m checking it. A few weeks ago, I was bombarded by spammers and got over 20K spam messages in two days – don’t think I checked all THAT!) I thought, when you said “you would be shocked to know about the production cost!” that you were going to tell me it really was far more expensive than I’d imagined. I know those companies will insist that it’s merely recouping R&D costs, and marketing. But I think earning high profits (note I don’t say “any profits” – just “high profits”) on medications that people need to LIVE is shameful. (I don’t object to higher profits on, say, Afrin – when you’re desperate but know that a little saline, time, and patience might work as well and be better for you, you’ll pay for quick relief.) But seriously – NO ONE should have to choose between healthcare and rent, or food, or their kids’ needs… It devalues human life, to put that kind of price tag on it.

        The first thing people here will say, if you point out that you could go to Mexico and get a lifetime supply of powdered Augmentin for about $15-30 is “Oh, but it’s probably counterfeit and you don’t know what’s really in it!” Really?? From a pharmacy with a knowledgeable pharmacist on staff? I’m not buying it. That’s always struck me as xenophobic and paranoid. Fear will hold us all prisoner, if we let it.
        HollyJahangiri recently posted…Using Styles, Not Direct Formatting, in Microsoft WordMy Profile

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