A reader recently posted a thought-provoking comment – one that I believe many of you may have considered. The question: “Is healthcare a fundamental right??
The answer, I think, is that we must view basic health care in a similar way that we see defense and public safety in this country. We have collectively decided as a nation that providing these services and sharing the burden of paying for them just makes sense. Health care is the same. The costs of not providing access to basic health care services are simply too great – similar to not building guardrails on our highways or having a fire department to extinguish flames that could overtake entire cities or building an army to ensure the safety of our citizens.
Basic health allows people to lead productive and positive lives, support their families and contribute to their communities. To have a successful economy and productive workforce, America needs for its citizens to be able to take care of themselves and those that they bring into the world.
Preventative medicine and measures that promote early detection of disease such as basic dental services, nutrition education, mammograms, colonoscopies, pap smears and immunizations – these all make sense from a public health standpoint. When people do not have access to health services and screening tests, highly treatable diseases like prostate or cervical cancer are diagnosed at later stages when often the only course of action is to provide life saving treatments. This type of care is very expensive; tremendous resources can be saved by promoting screening tests to catch these diseases in their earliest stages.
However, deeming basic health care a responsibility of the government should not give everyone the right to be treated for every ailment and complaint. Basic health care should not encompass procedures and measures that are considered elective. Coming to an agreement on what constitutes basic health care will obviously not be a simple task. To avoid implementing arbitrary, bureaucratic standards, we must empower our scientists and clinicians – not lawmakers – to make these decisions. Fundamental groups in the field of education have established fairly universal criteria for what constitutes a college degree, and I am confident that the best minds from the health care industry, public and private, can achieve the same for health care.
I frequently say that health care reform must happen. I continue to repeat this statement because I truly believe that we can’t afford for it not to happen.