Abstract – From market competition to solidarity? Assessing the prospects of US health care reform plans from a human rights perspective

Anja Rudiger

Health and Human Rights 10/1

Published June 2008



Although the crisis of health care in the United States is widely acknowledged – marked by poor health outcomes, high costs, unequal access, and widening health inequities – its structural underpinnings have not been adequately addressed, and reformers have settled on promoting piecemeal measures to avoid disruption. The human right to health care offers an analytical and advocacy framework for shifting the health care reform debate from individualist, market-based approaches to the collective responsibility for health care as a public good. Based on an assessment of the health care reform proposals put forward during the US 2008 presidential primaries, the article argues that the emerging consensus among Democrats and health care advocacy organizations on incremen – tal, market-based reforms ignores issues of equity, participation, and accountability. Alternately, the newly popularized concept of shared responsibility would reconnect rights to responsibilities and thus reinforce the public obligation to protect and pro – vide health care. The article concludes by introducing the Human Right to Health Program, run by the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative (NESRI) and the National Health Law Program (NHeLP), which seeks to advance the recognition of health care as a human right in the US by supporting grassroots partners and allies in their struggle for universal and equitable health care.