Call Health Care What It Is: A Basic Human Right

For those seeking a guiding principle (this sounds much better than "sound bite") for health care reform here it is: "Health care is a basic human right."

Or put another way: "As members of American society, we have a fundamental right to health care."

It is striking how little discussion there has been of health care as a right. While discussions about the cost of health care are crucial, health care needs to be embraced as a right and not simply a commodity. Any and all decisions must be viewed through this rights-based perspective: Does a decision/policy promote or impede a right to health care?

While rights are not limitless, there are basic standards. For example, as a society, we understand the right to education, and that our government has a responsibility to ensure a basic level of public education. This doesn't mean that private options, eg. private schools/universities are not an important part of our educational system. But we would not think about doing away with the "public school option." Similarly, we understand and insist that our government provide for national defense. Maximizing the health of our citizens, which includes access to high quality health care, is nothing less than a matter of national security. You never hear the expression "socialized defense."

Hopefully, President Obama and all of our elected officials will frame the crucial need for health care reform as nothing less than the realization of a basic right and in so doing remind us all what is at stake.