Democrats believe that health care is a moral right deserved by all Americans. Republicans believe that health care is an economic privilege deserved by those who can afford it. I believe that Democrats are on the right side of history. In the 19th century, the North argued that slavery was morally wrong, regardless of the economic implications. The South argued that slavery was economically desirable, regardless of the moral implications. The modern parallels are striking, and while I’m sure that Republicans would scoff at such a comparison, I would point to a comment made by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on “Meet the Press” this weekend:
DAVID GREGORY (HOST): Do you think it’s a moral issue that 47 million Americans go without health insurance?
SEN. McCONNELL: Well, they don’t go without health care. It’s not the most efficient way to provide it. As we know, doctors and hospitals are sworn to provide health care. We all agree it is not the most efficient way to provide health care to find somebody only in the emergency room and then pass those costs on to those who are paying for insurance.
The moral flaw in Senator McConnell’s argument is that he asserts that emergency room care is economically inefficient for those with health care, not morally insufficient for those without it. Read his statement again: he’s saying that the biggest problem with health care is its undesirable impact on those of us who can afford to pay for it. I don’t accept that the emergency room is an adequate form of health care any more than I would accept that sharecropping was an adequate form of freedom.
When in conflict, life must triumph over money. Everything we know tells us that this is true.
We are obligated to provide universal health care to every American because we are capable of doing so; because saving lives is morally superior to saving money; and because deciding who lives and who dies should never be the work of a for-profit industry. We must consider it our moral duty because we uphold the virtues of good samaritanism, of helping thy neighbor, and of doing unto others as we would have them do unto us. We are obliged because we have promised to do so every time we sing our anthem or wave our flag or pledge our allegiance.
To suggest that our nation is incapable of providing universal health care is perhaps the ultimate manifestation of greed: that your wealth is more important than your neighbor’s health. You cannot call yourself an American, for you have not yet earned the privilege.