Health Care is a Human Right

Written by Stephanie Strand

More than 70 years ago, on December 10, 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which proclaims, in addition to many other issues that reflect on human dignity:

“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of [their self] and of [their] 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 [their] control.”   

Everyonehas the right to medical care, whatever the individual’s circumstances. Not “everyone with a job” or “everyone who can afford the co-pay” or “everyone in Congress.”  Everyone, period.

The United States has a special relationship with the Declaration as Eleanor Roosevelt was Chair of the Human Rights Commission at the time and she was the driving force behind the document’s composition and passage. Ironically, however, the U.S. did not actually ratify the Declaration until 1992.  

Today 12.4% percent of American adults have no health insurance, and tens of thousands of Americans die each year  because they are uninsured. Millions more cannot afford adequate care because they are underinsured. Soaring drug costs are part of the problem. A recent study published in the journal Circulationfound that one in eight heart disease patients skips medication doses because of cost, and diabetic Americans are dying because skyrocketing drug prices force them to choose between insulin or food and shelter.

Medical debt is crippling American working families. Two-thirds of all personal bankruptcy filings cite illness and medical bills as contributing factors, and more Americans are being arrested and jailed because of outstanding hospital bills.

We are in the throes of a human rights crisis that’s been building for decades, and is only getting more urgent.

The problem isn’t that we don’t spend money on health care. In fact, we spend more per capita than any other industrialized country, by far.  But so much goes to bloated administrative overhead, inflated prices for drugs and medical devices, profiteering, and waste that is unrelated to providing actual health care that even as we pay more we have worse outcomes than other wealthy nations on several measures, including infant mortality and maternal health

In short, we witness human rights violations, millions of times over, through our current healthcare system.

What can we do? We can fight for Single Payer in Massachusetts.  Single Payer will replace our current fragmented, disorganized, and expensive patchwork system of multiple private insurers and public agencies with a streamlined Health Care Trust that will cover preventive services and all medically necessary care for every resident. And bonus, it will cost far less than our current system. 

If we’re willing to do the work, we can lead the nation toward health care justice.

Think about it. That Declaration belongs to every person. Everyone has an inborn entitlement to health care, simply for showing up. Are we willing to claim and defend this human right for all?

Health Insurance is a Battlefield

Western Mass. Medicare for All presented testimony at a recent “Listening Session” for local legislators on March 15th in Amherst. One of our speakers was Jon Weissman, Co-convener of WMM4A, past coordinator of Western Mass. Jobs with Justice, and a long-time labor and community activist. Here is his testimony:

The costs of health insurance, prescription drugs, and hospital charges keep rising, and these costs are increasingly shifted to workers, creating an unsustainable situation for workers.

The urgency for reform is clear every day at the bargaining table, where unions seek to preserve the benefits workers have earned, but these high costs help to sustain a climate of concessionary bargaining, pushing wages down, diverting potential wage and pension improvements to the pockets of the insurance companies and their high-salaried executives, causing bitter strikes and lockouts, triggering attacks on public sector workers and retirees, and shifting more and more of the costs onto the backs of workers.  Health insurance is a battlefield.

Continue reading “Health Insurance is a Battlefield”

Why Question 4 Matters
Commentary by Sara Weinberger

Last April and May, I joined with members of Western Mass Medicare for All to collect signatures to get a non-binding referendum on the November ballot giving voters the opportunity to weigh in on the question of whether they would support single-payer health care in Massachusetts. Getting people to sign my petition was the easiest sell I’ve ever made. Those I spoke with were fed up with rising health care costs and fearful that the stripping away of the Affordable Care Act was going to further erode their access to health care.

Continue reading “Why Question 4 Matters
Commentary by Sara Weinberger

A stronger Single Payer delegation
Western Mass. can take the lead

Western Mass. Medicare for All (WMM4A) is pleased that an energetic primary season has now culminated in victory for several strong Medicare for All supporters almost certain to be elected to office on Nov. 6th.  Single Payer healthcare was a key issue in the primary for many candidates and voters, discussed at public forums, and reported in the media.

Most of the candidates running for state office in Franklin and Hampshire counties responded to WMM4A’s Candidates Single Payer Survey.  Winning candidates who responded include Natalie Blais, Jo Comerford, Mindy Domb, Paul Mark, and Lindsay Sabadosa.  Their responses were thoughtful, with consideration for how we can actually implement a Single Payer system in Mass.  All of these candidates agreed, if elected, to help initiate and participate in a Single Payer Legislative Caucus.  Such a caucus will provide a forum for in-depth discussion and advocacy on this issue in the Statehouse. Continue reading “A stronger Single Payer delegation
Western Mass. can take the lead

Survey: 56% of Physicians Support Single Payer
Post by Lawrence Pareles

Merritt Hawkins is a physician recruitment firm. They did a study of physicians on 8/3/17, and the results were published in Newsweek of 9/19/17.  The study found that 56% of American doctors they polled, were strongly or moderately in favor of a Single Payer healthcare plan here.  Continue reading “Survey: 56% of Physicians Support Single Payer
Post by Lawrence Pareles