Kamal Artin, MD
Development depends on the capacity to change on an individual and societal level. Health and education are two necessary factors for developing this capacity. Without education a society is illiterate and lacks the opportunity to change and modernize. On a similar note, without health people suffer and are hindered from making a change in their own lives and the lives of their fellow citizens. The purpose of this essay is to argue that as a developed and modern society we need to support a socialized program such as Medicare for all.
In modern societies education is a human right and in order not to leave anyone behind, the department of education has the task of educating all children. This task is consistent with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948 which states: “Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit”.
In many democratic societies public education in the native language of the citizens has been accepted as a human right. Even undemocratic states, which violate the rights of the natives to have access to public education in their own language, are committed to provide public education to their citizens at least in the official language of the state, and so those who speak that language develop a capacity for change. While educating the public is guaranteed by all states, many states pay less attention to the health of their people. This attitude contradicts the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states: “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”.
Usually the department of health and human services or its equivalent in various countries looks into epidemiological matters and provides some services to the disadvantaged citizens via socialized programs such as Medicare. However, unlike the department of education that assures citizens equal access to public schools, the department of health and human services is not well designed to make access to health care an equal human right. Because of this shortcoming over forty million disadvantaged and uninsured Americans have no equal health right and might fall behind in developing the capacity for change.
Thanks to Medicare, some citizens have access to public health care. Like public education for all, ideally Medicare should be expanded to all, as it has been advocated by Physicians for National Health Program. Unfortunately the propaganda of special interest groups and consequential public fear of socialism has turned socialized medicine into a taboo. Because of full confidence in free market system and its competitive nature for development and change, we often ignore the fact that not the equality but the lack of it is the problem in most countries that have a socialized agenda. The main shortcoming of the socialist states is not that they try to provide public education and health to all, but in denying other equal human rights such as freedom of speech, belief, and association to their public.
Public education has not hindered the free market system and is complementary to private education. Those who are worried about the inadequacy of public education and can afford private schools are not prevented from educating their children privately. The same argument can be made about a health system that is made available to public. If we are financially privileged and feel entitled to have immediate access to the latest developments in health care system, we could pay for it by ourselves or by our additional and complimentary private insurance. However, if we are in need of medical care and rather use public health care, we should have this option available to us as a human right. Ignoring this right is inconsistent with our goal to change and become a developed country in all fronts.
Our history indicates that we have ignored other human rights in the past such as taking the property, the dignity, and even the lives of Native Americans, slaves, and thousands of other people around the world by our aggressive leaders. Our country has changed from such an underdeveloped stage of aggressive behavior and pioneered in supporting the human rights of millions of people at home and abroad. If we claim our country is the most developed, modern, and progressive country on earth, we should provide equal health care to all of our citizens starting with the descendants of Native Americans, slaves, and immigrants who have escaped abusive rulers that our government has supported at some point.
Providing equal health care to all would be the next change for our development, otherwise supporting the mottos of this year’s election campaign was in vain. In order to turn the motto into practice and start the change next year, we all could do something about it in this year’s season of giving.
Starting with myself, I welcome change and make a new resolution for the New Year. As a health care provider, I had stopped accepting Medicare because of inadequate rates of this socialized program. At this developmental stage I now can accept Medicare patients again and will do my share in advocating that this program is expanded to all citizens gradually. Other citizens, who expect the country to be number one in all fronts, may give the people a gift by writing to their representative in support of public health care for all. Our leaders who wish that god blesses America could give their constituents a gift by supporting Medicare for all as a true blessing for the country and its citizen
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