Healthcare Is a Human Right is a people’s movement organizing state by state to win universal, publicly financed healthcare. We believe we can advance equity and dignity by treating healthcare as a public good that belongs to us all. Every person has the right to get the care they need. We bring people together who are most affected by the healthcare crisis and who continue to struggle despite the Affordable Care Act. Through grassroots organizing, we are building leadership, connections, and a vision for real change. Only a unified people’s movement can open up new political possibilities for universal healthcare, and for building a society that puts people’s needs ahead of profits.
From our beginnings in Vermont, where the Healthcare Is a Human Right campaign won the first law in the country committing a state to set up a universal, publicly financed healthcare system, our movement is growing. The Healthcare Is a Human Right Campaign Collaborative was formed by grassroots groups in Vermont, Maine, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, and works with allies in our states and across the country. We are united by a bold vision rooted in human rights, and have developed a set of principles, tools and methods to build people power and advance equity and justice in healthcare and beyond.
Healthcare Is a Human Right campaigns share several integral and interwoven elements, each of which is a critical part of our campaign model and theory of change. Our campaigns:
- Build permanent organization among people most impacted, including through creating organizing committees in people’s communities around each state, anchored by a grassroots base-building group that grows, develops and maintains grassroots leadership, and is governed by the people it organizes
- Develop leaders in an ongoing process that raises consciousness, advances collective learning and political education, and enables fully participatory decision-making on goals and strategy
- Use a human rights framework and apply human rights principles to all activities
- Change the public and political debate by telling people’s own stories in a way that elevates people’s agency and leadership and illuminates the structural failures of the current system
- Hold powerholders accountable for ensuring human rights
- Grow the broader human rights movement by uniting constituencies and allies across issues and divisions and challenging oppression at all levels
Healthcare is a fundamental human need, but it is not a need that anyone can meet on their own. We rely on the institutions we build as a society to meet our needs, yet the current market-based health insurance system fails to provide healthcare to all of us. We are required to pay pricey premiums for insurance plans that don’t meet all our needs, while deductibles, co-payments and other out-of-pocket costs keep us from actually getting care. Those of us who are low- and middle-income pay a much greater share of our income for healthcare than the wealthy, and many immigrants are excluded from health insurance altogether. All but the wealthiest are just one illness or job loss away from serious financial hardship due to medical bills.
Despite the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s health insurance reform, these problems persist. As long as healthcare is sold as a market commodity for the profit of private companies, this unjust system will deny people access to care, cause tens of thousands of early deaths, and force people into bankruptcy, debt, and impossible tradeoffs between paying for healthcare or paying for housing, food, and other fundamental needs.
Only a universal, publicly financed healthcare system that provides healthcare as a public good can solve this crisis and move us toward a just economy that enables everyone to meet their fundamental needs and live with dignity. Financing healthcare through equitable taxes and publicly administering payments for all needed healthcare will stop the healthcare industry from determining who can access care and who cannot.
Why Human Rights?
Our movement is built on the vision of human rights and guided by human rights principles that affirm and prioritize the inherent worth and dignity of all human beings. Current social and economic structures fail to put human needs and human rights ahead of all other considerations, thereby causing unconscionable inequities that exclude, impoverish, and even kill people. Only by refocusing our healthcare system on human rights can we be sure that it will meet the needs of all people.
A society that satisfies the principle of universality will no longer exclude people from access to healthcare or any other rights. It will no longer worship the market or withhold public goods. A society that meets the principle of equity will not tolerate the concentration of power and wealth that secures excellent care for some but shortens the lives of others. A truly democratic society that develops transparent, accountable, and participatory processes will no longer suppress the power of the people to decide what healthcare system best meets their needs and rights.
Human Rights Principles
Everyone must have guaranteed access to comprehensive, quality healthcare.
Healthcare resources and services must be distributed according to people’s needs with no systemic barriers, such as costs, to accessing care. Everyone gets what they need and contributes what they can.
Government has an obligation to establish a healthcare system that meets human rights principles, and that is accountable to the people it serves.
The healthcare system must be open with regard to information, decision-making, and management.
The healthcare system must enable meaningful public participation in all decisions affecting people’s right to healthcare.