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Is healthcare a human right?

Written by .
Published 1st March 2019.
Most of the UK tend to take our free public healthcare for granted, forgetting that just across the water medical services are a luxury few can afford. Should healthcare be viewed as a basic human right?

Out of the 33 nations recognized as being “developed”, only 32 have adopted the Universal Health Care system. The only nation from this group yet to adopt a Universal Healthcare System is the United States of America. Countries that have adopted a Universal Healthcare system include the UK, Germany and Russia. While their approach to Universal Healthcare differs slightly, healthcare is viewed by them as a public good. So, should healthcare be viewed as a human right? According to the UN it is, they have even gone so far as to declare the 12th of December as International Universal Health Coverage Day, and are going forward with trying to achieve International Universal Health Coverage by 2030.

However, the USA disagrees that Universal Healthcare is a system that would be beneficial if adopted as they already have a thriving privatized healthcare system that, in 2015, accounted for close to $7.1 trillion. Keeping in mind that this accounts for close to 40% of the US total GDP, that number is outrageous and by itself was almost 2.5 times larger than the UK total GDP. And as economically beneficial a system like that is, there are also bound to be some clear socio-economic issues; one being that the richer you are, the better the treatment you are entitled to. This at its core is a system that is malicious to citizens earning minimum wage, much more so to those with families. 58.5% of the US population were earning minimum wage in 2015, and the average cost for healthcare coverage was $440 per month while minimum wage was only $7.25 per hour. This amounts up to workers having to work for 61 hours a month just to be able to afford healthcare. How are we as a society able to view this as anything less than an assault on everyone but the upper-class?

One of the arguments people who are against Universal Healthcare in the US constantly use is the long queue times that lead to increased inefficiency. And sure, as a public good that does not focus on generating revenue, Universal Healthcare will not have the same efficiency as privatized hospitals as they do not view efficiency at the same level that a business would. Nevertheless, people shouldn’t have to pay to avoid longer than desirable waiting times. Furthermore, in 2015, there was a reported 2.4 beds per 1000 persons in the US. This number when compared to the UK in 2017 is almost similar, as the UK has 2.7 beds per 1000 persons. What one can draw from this is that the length of stay in hospitals in both nations is similar which means that, to an extent, both nations have a similar level of efficiency in this respect. And to compound on this, the UK also has a private sector for healthcare, and while a number of these hospitals are run by not-for-profit organizations and charities, they are also a significant amount of them that are run as a business outside the NHS. Hence making shorter queue wait times a choice for those willing and able to pay for privatized healthcare. But that is a choice the individual is allowed to make without being barred from being able to receive quality treatment.

Yes, Universal Healthcare policy is more closely related to socialism than it is democracy. But it is one where we as a society are able to provide for those unable to provide for themselves and is an altruistic system that needs to be adopted by countries and governments with the means to provide it. Because at the end of the day, we all bleed red and we shouldn’t have to pay trillions to get the help we deserve.