Nancy Spillane: More Americans now believe health care is a right |

Nancy Spillane: More Americans now believe health care is a right

Having access to good health care is a human right, just like food and clean water. If you have a sick community, you have a sick workforce, you have sick people. You have low productivity from sickness.

Recent polls show voters seem to have a more complex view than just "repeal and replace." A majority of Americans now believe health care is a right, a perspective shaped by their personal experiences. They are starting to think that the government might be necessary to guarantee health care to every American.

Even though Democrats are driving the popularity of universal health care, it's not just Democrats who increasingly support this idea. The Pew Research Center recently reported 60 percent of Americans now believe in universal health care coverage.

For some, believing health care is a right seems to be founded on personal negative experiences with the current system. Deductibles have risen from less than $600 to more than $1,500 since 2006. Since 1999, employee contributions for their insurance premiums have risen 270 percent, while wages have grown only 64 percent — barely above inflation. Ouch. Employer insurance is still the bedrock of American health care, but it's not the deal it once was.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, look how the U.S. is compared to comparable wealthy countries:

  • The U.S. has the highest rate of deaths amenable to health care.
  • Disease burden is higher in the U.S. than in other developed countries.
  • The U.S. has higher rates of medical, medication, and lab errors.
  • Hospital admissions for preventable diseases are more frequent in the U.S. Data shows admissions go up when prevention services are either not being delivered or adhered to.
  • The mortality rate for respiratory diseases is higher in the U.S.
  • Adults in most comparable countries have quicker access to a doctor or nurse when they need care.
  • Use of the emergency department in place of regular doctor visits is more common in the U.S. because preventative care is not affordable or available.

The frosting on the cake is that the World Health Organization ranks the U.S. 37th, even though our health system spends more money than the 191 countries studied.

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Right now, the U.S. lags behind, and our country is not improving the health of its citizens as quickly as other countries. Maybe, just maybe, we can learn from systems that often produce better health outcomes, and those systems value access to health care as a human right.

As candidates prepare to run for elections in 2018, let's make sure they are aware that Americans want universal health care and for good reasons.

Nancy Spillane

Oak Creek