Why is health care outside of social responsibility?

healthcareArticle 25 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 states that “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.”But the question is still brought up today – is healthcare a human right? The question has plagued Americans since the birth of our country, as countless efforts to enact healthcare reform have failed. In several of my classes we discuss this question in different frames. First, looking at the policy reasons why healthcare reform has failed. Scholars such as Quadagno, Hacker and Rothman all argue that it was the responsibility of different groups for why the U.S. hasn’t been able to establish a supportive healthcare system. Others look at the economic reasons, focusing on the implications of breaking down our current health insurance and health care systems. The greatest concern that plagues me, however, is why health care is seen as such a separate issue from the rest of social responsibility? Why is it that so many people think of taxes for education, housing, and food as a given part of life in America, yet thinking that taxes for health care is so ludicrous? Several reports have shown that Americans pay more for health care in taxes than many other countries that have universal health care systems. Some of the common pushback reasons given for why systems like Britain’s NHS could never work is the fact that Brits fund this system largely through taxes. When you compare the share of GDP and cost to the individual, the similarities are striking. So is this really a viable reason for not pursuing a more supportive health care system for Americans? Rather, I think the disconnect comes from the relationship between health care and health insurance in the U.S. Although health care may be viewed as a human right – if someone is sick, we treat them – health insurance is not seen in that way. This gap between payment and services is what continues to trouble any political or social effort to change health care in America. People may be willing to provide services to those who can’t pay for health care, but it’s much more challenging for individuals to purely support the financial aspect of securing health care. This obstacle to any positive change can be narrowed down to the for-profit nature of U.S. health insurance. However, even after identifying this issue, the path to change is not easy. Reforming an entire industry is a seemingly impossible challenge, one that politicians are especially hesitant to undertake. Moreover, the not-for-profit label is often associated with making little money, although anyone involved in nonprofit work knows that’s not true. Bringing health care under the umbrella of social responsibility for all humans is one of the essential steps in a hopeful future for the health of Americans, just one step among the many to facilitating positive change.


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