Health Care is a Right

June 26, 2009

Our society has created a system of advanced medical science and technology but this system is not used to take care of the health of the people.

–Nearly 50 million people have no medical insurance whatsoever, while another 50 million have severely inadequate coverage.

–Those workers who, through years of struggle have forced the capitalists to pay for medical insurance and health care, find these benefits under attack. Companies are forcing the workers to make large "co-payments" for medical insurance premiums, increasing the "deductibles" for insured workers, reneging on contractual guarantees for medical care for retired workers, denying all medical benefits for newly hired workers, etc, etc. The overwhelming majority of companies currently engaged in contract negotiations are demanding more "givebacks" of health care benefits.

–Government-administered health care programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, public hospitals, etc., are being cut back. All across the country states continue to cut funding for Medicaid, cutting benefits and requiring recipients to make co-payments etc. Today the out-of-pocket medical expenses of medicaid beneficiaries are rising twice as fast as their incomes. The government also refuses to fund Medicare to the level required to meet the needs of senior citizens. One result is that Medicare recipients pay an average of $4,400/year (or 28% of their income) on health care bills.

All these statistics translate into disease, suffering and death for the working people. Everyday people are denied medical care. Millions of others are forced into overcrowded and substandard medical facilities. The U.S. infant mortality rate is higher than 28 other countries, including some of the poorest in the world. Contagious diseases, which in the past had been all but eliminated, are again prevalent. Many retired workers and senior citizens are simply left to die.

The problem is that U.S. capitalism does not consider health care as a right belonging to all human beings; rather the motive is maximizing profit, and health care is made available on the basis of who can afford it.

Because the health care crisis is so acute, the capitalists themselves have again begun talking about the issue. But none of the various proposals being drawn up by the Republicans or Democrats will resolve the problem precisely because their "solutions" are all based on protecting the system of health care for profit. In fact, the bottom line of all the "solutions" are to increase the burden of cost on the working people, while continuing to guarantee the huge profit margins of the health care industry.

The working class has a different approach to the problem. In the first place, workers all over the country have been waging struggles at the workplace to protect their health benefits as well as the benefits of retired workers. Rank and file union members are insisting on an end to the concessions and give-backs, especially when their health and the health of their family is at stake. Seniors are demanding that Medicare coverage be expanded. In the communities, struggles are being launched to prevent the closing of hospitals and to demand medical care for those who cannot afford it.

All of these struggles must be intensified and merged into a generalized political movement. Access to the best available health care and medical treatment is a right which belongs to every human being. Clearly our country has all the resources necessary.

To guarantee this right, the profit-motive must be taken out of health care and government must make all the investments needed to organize a nationwide network of health care facilities which are accessible, free of charge, for everyone.