Is health care a basic right or privilege?

Published 8:08 am Monday, February 25, 2019

This week, Tennessee lawmakers embarked on a great challenge: how to make health care affordable for all its citizens. Lawmakers unveiled their CARE plan — a plan for a patient-centered, free market approach to healthcare.
However, the plan does nothing to ensure that Tennesseans have access to affordable healthcare. The goal of the CARE plan is to bring down the cost of health care and expand access, particularly for those who live in rural communities, by harnessing new technologies. But, there’s no guarantee it will work.
Who wouldn’t want people to have access to health care? Is health care coverage a basic right or a privilege?
When Democrats controlled both Congress and the presidency in 2010, they attempted to deliver on providing healthcare to all Americans by passing Obamacare. Three years after the act’s creation, however, 54 percent of Americans opposed it. Why?
The reasons were many. Problems included the act’s efforts to provide access to health care … but in doing so it did little to address cost. That flaw was critical, for it quickly became apparent that premiums paid by people were not going to be as low as expected. In addition, hospital, drug and related costs continued to grow without any apparent restraint.
Public support was also weakened by Obamacare’s income tax increases, which included taxes on those who didn’t purchase insurance. In addition, many people lost their employment-based health insurance, as businesses found it more cost-effective to shift their employees to Obamacare exchanges.
Since Obamacare was passed with zero Republican support, they pledged to repeal and replace it when they regained power in Congress and the presidency. This is still to happen. Lawmakers do a lot of talking about health care, but have yet to put actions behind that talk
Most lawmakers — including those in Washington and Nashville — enjoy lavish health care perks, even those the job of lawmaker is part time.
Most Americans believe our health care system is broken. Health care costs and drug prices have skyrocketed. The inequality in health care, not just between the rich and poor , but between rural and urban, is appalling.
Medicare health care insurance coverage is hugely popular among seniors. It is popular because its benefits are excellent and seniors aren’t required to pay the full costs. Medicare is running in the red, and no politician who wants to be elected has been willing to propose any sensible way to cover its deficits.
The public isn’t particularly alarmed about this, so the idea of extending Medicare coverage to everyone is appealing on its face. It polls well … because the idea gives voters a lot of positive emotion, but no game plan. Once details are revealed, however, support goes down dramatically.
The months ahead are filled with uncertainty regarding how the U.S. health care system will evolve. For example, will block granting Medicaid lead to a two-tiered health care system and reduced access, or will it improve quality and reduce the increase in health care costs? If health savings accounts and tax credits replace the individual mandate, will individuals purchase health insurance? Will selling health insurance across state lines truly increase competition and reduce cost, or will it adversely affect the right of states to decide what represents adequate care for their citizens, lead to fewer health care networks with less competition rather than more, and create confusion for individuals who will not understand how such an insurance plan works in their state? Will a pool of dollars to ensure coverage of those with preexisting medical conditions be sufficient, or will these individuals once again be “uninsurable”? Will the various changes being discussed destabilize the commercial insurance market, leading to higher costs and less coverage particularly for those with preexisting health care conditions? Will these reforms solve the problem of increasingly oppressive cost of care for the working and middle classes and small businesses?
Legislators, whether they serve at the state level or the national level, must come together and speak with a single voice and say that health care is a basic right for every person, and not just a privilege to be available and affordable only for a majority.
The solution for how to achieve health care coverage for all may be uniquely American, but it is an exceedingly important and worthy goal, emblematic of a fair and just society.
The Tennessee CARE Act is a starter, but it does little to make health care accessible and affordable to hard-working Tennesseans in our rural communities.

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