Health Care Security is a Fundamental Freedom — Part I of III

In 21st century America, access to affordable health care for all should be considered a fundamental freedom and a basic human right. Today, more than ever, access to health care is central to one’s attainment of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Yet tens of millions of Americans nationwide, including those with severe and chronic illness, have been deprived of health care strictly for socioeconomic reasons or other discriminatory factors — like race, gender, ethnicity and disability. This has been an American tragedy for far too long.

Is health care for all a personal infringement?

Thus, as we celebrate Independence Day, let’s not forget the most vulnerable among us: those living in poverty and despair without any form of health care to fall back on. For these downtrodden Americans, the enactment of President Obama’s landmark Affordable Care Act represents the very freedom necessary to live an independent and fruitful life. That is, freedom to see a doctor. Freedom to receive needed medical treatment. And freedom from the stranglehold of greed and corruption by big insurance companies.

America is still the greatest functioning democracy on the planet because of our Government’s ability to ensure equality and human rights for all of our nation’s 300-plus million people. These principles are enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. Yet some determined detractors of health care reform still claim that their individual rights are being trampled upon at the expense of another Government mandate they don’t want to pay for. But I’ll bet those vociferous folks who continue to castigate health care reform are part of the same crowd that already enjoys generous health benefits. Moreover, hospital care for the uninsured is reflected in inflated premiums for the rest of us. Thus, it’s a lose-lose scenerio.

Perhaps the opponents of health care reform should ask the swelling ranks of uninsured and under-insured Americans if they agree that health care is a personal infringement our nation can do without?

Independence Day Gift

The U.S. Government has always had an inherent responsibility to safeguard and protect the general welfare of its citizenry. Thus, we should applaud what naysayers have dubbed “Obamacare” and condemn politically calculated efforts to demonize the new law in general and the President in particular. Moreover, the U.S. Supreme Court deserves accolades for deciding to uphold this historic legislative achievement based upon Constitutional law and equal justice. What a wonderful gift, what a powerful message for every American to receive on Independence Day. Health care will no longer be a priviledge reserved only for the wealthy and upper middle class. Furthermore, another ideological and political divide among Americans will, hopefully, be laid to rest.

While public servants and many private sector employees are fortunate to have health care benefits, there are still approximately 20-30 million of less fortunate citizens among us. This group of Americans, many indigent and struggling to survive, has been in desperate need of medical care for far too long. In fact, you may know some of these people. They are your neighbors, friends, family, acquaintances, the unemployed and the under-employed. Yes, they are America.

A Fourth of July debt of gratitude

Thus, on Independence Day 2012, we owe a colossal debt of gratitude to the Supreme Court justices, especially Chief Justice Roberts, who voted to uphold President Obama’s landmark health care law because it’s in the best interest of our nation. The President has spoken and acted. The Congress has spoken and acted. The Supreme Court has spoken and acted. And, guess what? The three branches of the U.S. Government have spoken and acted in unison. How often does that happen?

Now it’s high time to honor our democratic principles and come together as one America in support of health care for all. To those who still fail to see and heed the wisdom and leadership of our President and Congress, buttressed by the highest court in the land, I say this: grow up, get over it, and embrace positive change for the greater good of America.

It has been said that facts are stubborn things. The fact is that affordable health care for all will soon be effective nationwide as a legal right and Constitutional reality after so many grueling decades of failed efforts for partisan political purposes.

Therefore, we should all thank Chief Justice Roberts, President Obama, the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, some current members of Congress, and the community of health care reform advocates, all of whom have fought so hard for so long to reform our broken health care system. This is indeed good reason to celebrate our nation’s 236th birthday.

Happy Independence Day to all, especially to those in need of health care. The waiting game has finally ended. Justice has prevailed.

Also see Part II:


*** All views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author only.

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Julie Chase

Lot’s of questions here below the Mason-Dixon line. “Who” is going to pay for it? Is it a “tax”? Are insurance rates going (aka BCBS for feds) through the roof to pay for everyone else? This is particularly rough for feds here who have been (and if there is an extension) in a “pay freeze”. College grads in this area are unemployed. Uncle Sam is not hiring here. The young are leaving the area and have given up on federal service. How are they going to afford health insurance and pay back college loans? No, don’t post a link of the healthcare law, it’s like reading the Bible. (subject to interpretation).

David B. Grinberg

Julie, as noted, we already pay higher health care costs due to all the uninsured folks who receive necessary hospital and medical care. Thus, we are already paying for it. This is why annual premium hikes are the new norm, depsite the lackluster economy. Moreover, what’s wrong with the wealthiest Americans among us — the socalled one percent — paying their fair share for the greater good of America? Do you disagree that every American deserves access to affordable health care, even if the super rich must pick up the tab?

Peter Sperry

David – Since it has been fairly well documented that confiscating 100 percent of all wealth held by top earners would fund the government for only a few years, what do you do when you run out of other people’s money? Also, given the well documented fact the top 5 percent of earners already pay more than 50 percent of all income taxes, at what point are they allowed to say they have done enough? It is one thing to ask everyone to pay their fair share but at some point redistributionist policies become thinly disguised theft and the moral authority of the government erodes as it becomes little more than muscle for those who believe that someone else’s good fortune is all the justification required to take by force what they cannot earn by commerce.

David B. Grinberg

Thanks for the interesting comments, Peter, it’s always good to hear diverse viewpoints. Sounds like we agree, at least partially, that the richest Americans should “pay their fair share” for the greater good of America. In this instance, per access to affordable health care for all. I understand your excellent point about “redistributionist policies” run amok — and I agree with you that such policies should only go so far. I’ll leave it to the policymakers and budget experts to decide how the numbers crunch out. Regarding “somone else’s good fortune”, I would note that the same point you make just as easily applies to the shrinking middle class and the poor — even more so if our economy erodes to the point of no middle class at all, just rich vs. poor. I think that’s the biggest socioeconomic challenge we face.

David B. Grinberg

A must-read op-ed in the Washington Post by Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services.
She writes:
“In the decade before the [Affordable Care Act] law was passed, national health expenditures increased about 7 percent a year. But in the past two years, those increases have dropped to less than 4 percent per year, saving Americans more than $220 billion. And that trend is expected to continue, with health-care costs projected to stay level as a share of gross domestic product from 2009 all the way through 2013…”
“People are entitled to their opinions, but not to their own facts. And the facts in this case are clear: Since the Affordable Care Act was passed, national health spending is rising at a slower rate, health insurance premiums are rising at a slower rate, small-business coverage is holding steady and Medicare is on a stronger financial footing…”
“Now that the Supreme Court has issued a decision, the American people would be better served if Congress joined the president in working to build on that progress, not undo it.”

David B. Grinberg

Excellent op-ed in the Washington Post by Matt Miller, a former colleague of mine at OMB in 1993-1994 (yes, I was pretty young back then, fresh out of college). Miller writes:

“In America — alone among wealthy nations — everyone is a pink slip or job change or new illness away from finding they have lost coverage or are uninsurable…In every other advanced nation, the idea that government has a central role in assuring basic health security was settled decades ago — a consensus that conservatives abroad embrace.”

David B. Grinberg

Some women to receive new health benefits under Affordable Care Act…

“Women will be able to have access to essential preventive services that will provide early detection and screening for those situations where they’re most at risk, and also provide opportunities to care and services that they need as wives and mothers,” Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Maryland, said at a press conference Monday.