The promotion of human health is among the most important single indicators of a just society. The availability and affordability of comprehensive health care to every person, regardless of income or other factors, is defined by many nations as a basic human right.
Recent polls indicate Americans feel health care is one of the nation’s biggest problems. The U.S. spends the most per person on health care than any other nation, has the worst health care system among high-income nations, and has overall poor population health. Nearly 26 million Americans remain uninsured.
3 Ways Corporations Have Captured Health Care
1. Framing health care as a commodity, not as a right. The business model of so-called “health care” corporations is to minimize coverage and treatment, while maximizing premiums, deductibles and co-pays – all of which maximize profits. Despite the rhetoric, insurance agents, not doctors or patients, increasingly determine basic health care decisions.
2. Investments in lobbying and political campaigns to gain political influence. The so-called “health care” sector was #1 in political spending in 2016. More than $500 million was raised to hire 2,700 lobbyists to influence legislation. Health Care Political Action Committees (PACs) invested $55.7 million in federal candidate campaigns (60% to Republicans, 40% to Democrats) in 2016. An additional $53.8 million in “outside” political spending (e.g. largely for advertising) was invested, led by health care-related insurance corporations ($19 million) and pharmaceuticals/health products ($15.8 million).
3. Corporate constitutional rights. Corporate constitutional rights have been used to promote corporate interests over human health and safety and/or to deny health coverage. Examples:
- 1st Amendment religious rights. In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court prohibited requiring closely held, for-profit secular corporations to provide contraceptive coverage as part of their health insurance plans if it violated the corporation’s 1st Amendment “religious rights and beliefs.” To extend and pretend that private, personalreligious rights apply to business corporations is a breach of a constitutional firewall with potential widespread discriminatory implications.
- 4th Amendment search and seizure rights. Tens of thousands of deaths annually are attributed to occupational disease while several million people report work-related injuries and tens of thousands of work place fatalities. Corporate 4th Amendment search and seizure rights, affirmed in cases like Marshall v. Barlow, prevent government inspectors from visiting corporate property to investigate health and safety violations, and threaten worker health and safety.
- 14th Amendment due process rights. From 1905 until the mid-1930s the Supreme Court invalidated approximately 200 regulations protecting the health and safety of workers, consumers and children in order to affirm corporate “rights” under the due process clause of the 14th Amendment.
Healthy individuals and a healthy democracy are inextricable connected. Ending corporate constitutional rights is the ultimate cure to our critically ill health care system and democracy.
Move to Amend’s We the People Amendment abolishes the constitutional doctrines that give corporations “personhood” rights and that allow the spending of money in elections to be protected as “free speech.”
We need to join together to build and sustain a powerful and authentically diverse democracy movement that will guarantee just and peaceful laws – including a universal, affordable, accessible and comprehensive health care system for every person.
We’re hopeful about the new “Medicare for All” bill in the Senate, but the reality is that until we address the legal mechanisms corporations are able to use to dominate our government, it is unfortunately unlikely that we will see changes to healthcare policy that benefit We the People instead of the corporate bottom line.
As progressive groups continue to do all we can to support Medicare for All, we must not let up on the systemic struggle to get corporations out of power in politics. Please help us!
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