The Human Right to Health Care in Context

August 20, 2009

Riffing off of the news that President Obama is adding a moral component to his (heretofore mostly economic) pitch for health care reform, Desiree Evans, of the Institute for Southern Studies, writes:

Finding fresh ways to talk about socio-economic issues is not new in the health care advocacy community. Even as the Obama administration searches for a new way to pitch their proposed health reform, human rights groups and grassroots social justice networks have already been hard at work trying to shift the language and the thinking surrounding health care in the United States. They are using an oft-overlooked notion in the United States: “human rights.”

Desiree doesn’t explicitly answer the question in the title of her post — in reframing the health care debate, “is it too late for human rights?” The answer to that question is clear: no, it’s not too late.

Whatever happens with the current round of health care legislation — whether or not a bill passes, and if one does, whether it’s weak, strong, or even regressive — this is only the beginning of a long, long process in making the U.S. health care system truly universal, equitable and accountable. A bill would have to be implemented, which would take years. Crucial legislative questions will remain at the national, state and local levels. And there will be much more work to be done on absolutely central issues, like true fulfillment of the right to maternal health care in the United States.

But that’s a quibble. It’s a very informative post, on the imperatives of justice in health care reform, the historical roots of the human right to health care, and more — read the whole thing.