I am often asked what is the single most important issue that needs to be resolved in order to insure that health care reform moves forward in America. The answer is actually quite simple. If the key reason to reform the health care system is to extend health insurance coverage to the tens of millions of Americans who have none, then all those promoting reform but especially President Obama must drive home the ethical position that health care is a right.
As the current debate over health reform shows, those who oppose change argue that health reform cannot work because reform is not practical due to “the details.” A larger load of baloney masquerading as an argument is hard to imagine.
Health reform is not in the details. Think I am wrong? How far did we get this summer wallowing around in claims about co-ops, public plans, death panels, rationing, and cost savings?
Health reform is in the ethics. It will only occur if those who favor it can win the fight to recognize a right to health care. If health care is recognized as a right, then the details of how to achieve affordable health insurance reform will follow. If it is not, then efforts to move reform forward will simply die under the weight of nitpicking, fear-mongering, sloganeering, and the invocation of details as obstructions to change.
Arthur L. Caplan, Ph.D., is the Drs. William F and Virginia Connolly Mitty Professor and head of the Division of Bioethics at New York University Langone Medical Center in New York City.
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