Equality in Health as Social Justice (and some on the Affordable Care Act)

The United States recently passed the Affordable Care Act (popularly known as “Obamacare”), and more than ever, I am fighting others with the argument of whether health care should be a universal right to every American. Though educated economists and doctors may or may not agree with whether the Affordable Care Act was truly the best decision for the medical economy, the passing of this act raises the very important conversation of health care as a basic human right. 

Universal health care seems to be the perfect example of the struggle between social and market justice. Should every human have basic health rights in order to take advantage of the opportunities of life, especially when they have no control of their circumstances? Most would say so. But it seems this is nearly impossible to ensure while also fighting for the American ideal of market justice. I would encourage anyone interested in this issue to read the brilliantly explained balance struggle, available free here: “Public Health as Social Justice”, Dan E. Beauchamp.

With a basic background in homelessness I have gained certain opinions of my own about the rights of individuals in such a position as poverty. After watching the great documentary, “Poor Kids of America” (available on Youtube.com) I found myself in a disagreement with a loved one of mine regarding the rights of impoverished populations in health-related issues and health care. My opposition’s argument, “Those in extreme poverty have much bigger things to deal with than their health.” This is a flawed philosophy I see showing more and more in the argument for market justice against the Affordable Care Act here in the United States. The fact is, kids in poverty are 7 times more likely to be in poor health than kids above the federal poverty line here in the United States. 

Anyone who has found themselves or a loved one in poor health could attest to the difficulty of taking advantage of the opportunities of life that accompanies a poor health status. This can be an unending cycle; poor health-> unable to take advantage of life opportunities-> finding self and family in poverty-> poor health. If a child is 7 times more likely to find themselves in poor health because of their parents’ income, there is a clear disadvantage in life present; a vast inequality in opportunity and a clear violation of social justice.   

Now, I do not claim to be an expert in what could be the right economical choice to close the health inequality gap in the United States, but I know we need to take action on this issue. I stand by any actions we take as a society to close this health inequality gap, even if it means violating the American ideal of unlimited market justice. My heart aches that so many disagree with the way the scales should tip in the social versus market justice, especially when it comes to health in our nation. 

Though I surely am no expert in the economic issues at stake, I hope I have offered a skeptic a new perspective to contemplate on this issue.