Universal Health Care Series: The Moral Argument

This post is Part I in a series exploring reasons to support universal health care.

The moral argument in favor of universal health care dictates that ensuring equality of access to health care is a moral imperative. This moral imperative can stem from religious beliefs or through secular channels such as natural rights and human rights.

photo courtesy of kaibara

photo courtesy of kaibara

Religion and spirituality play a strong role in social activism, stressing personal development in faith as well with a call to improve the state of the world. James 2:26 says that, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” It is not merely enough for believers to profess their faith. Those beliefs are supported, sustained, and demonstrated through the social conscious actions of believers.

Activism and social justice are not restricted to Christianity. The religious call to social justice says that people should treat people the way they would like to be treated, also known as the Golden Rule. You can find a version of the Golden Rule in 21 world religions, encouraging respect and urging individuals to take personal responsibility for addressing injustices in basic human needs.

Given the prevalence of religious duty to upholding justice and equality, it is hard to justify the strength of one’s faith while supporting a system that has 45.8 million people without health insurance and many others underinsured. To do so institutionalizes practices, policies and systems that favor people who have the resources to meet their needs. Universal health care ensures that health, a fundamental need, is accessible to everyone regardless of how much money they make or where they live.

Moral obligations can come outside of religion through the concept of human rights. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the publication of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a comprehensive document that enumerates the rights of every person regardless of race, gender, creed, sexual orientation, income, and national laws. Given the recent anniversary and the push to meet the Millennium Development Goals, there is a renewed focus on increasing knowledge and awareness of human rights.

Article 25 specifically addresses the right to health care stating,

“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”

The article really does not leave wiggle room for a health care system that ensure the right to medical care to the majority of the population. Ensuring that every person has access to health care truly protects the  right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” boldly stated in the Declaration of Independence. Lack of insurance complicates health outcomes; people who are uninsured get sick more often, earn less money, and die sooner as a result of the disadvantage of not having sufficient access to health care.

The real question is what are you willing to do to fulfill your moral duty?

1 comment so far

  1. Milena Thomas on

    I am all about you calling people out on not putting their money where their mouth is. You rightly point out that there are many in need. However, I need to see a better basis for universal health care. The two don’t connect. People are still able to freely donate of their time and money on a private basis.

    Why should a publicly-mandated version of healthcare become a moral imperative? Doesn’t compute.


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