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Noam Schimmel Headshot

Romney's Health Care Reform Stance: A Violation of Liberty, Equality, and Justice

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Mitt Romney is adamantly opposed to Barack Obama's national health care plan. But he has not offered any alternatives that while guaranteeing universality would address his purported concerns about protecting free markets and maximizing individual choice.

In the absence of credible alternatives to Obama's plan it seems that Romney does not believe that Americans should all be guaranteed access to affordable, quality health care. He prefers to let the states decide, he often says.

But this is disingenuous in the extreme, as he knows full well that while the state of Massachusetts does guarantee health care to all its permanent residents (after all Romney signed the law that brought universal health care to Massachusetts) most U.S. states do not and probably will not.

Do people from Massachusetts really have more of a right to health and well-being than people in Mississippi? Does Romney believe that residents of Florida and Ohio and Pennsylvania are less deserving of health care than people in Massachusetts?

Arguing that it's up to the states to decide would be morally defensible if every state intended to find a way to ensure that none of its residents are discriminated against in the health care system because of their level of wealth and that all have access to health care. This can be done in ways that respect conservative values and need not lead to massive bureaucracies and government waste.

Indeed Obama's plan actually reflects many conservative values and priorities and allows private health insurers to continue to function and earn profits while simultaneously requiring them to stop the unconscionable discrimination against the sick and those with pre-existing conditions and to meet basic standards of care. It protects free markets and expands choice for citizens amongst health care insurers. So while Romney complains about Obama's plan he provides no alternative that provides health care as comprehensively and reliably as Obama's plan.

What Romney really believes we can conclude from his policy stance -- though he does not explicitly state it -- is that rich Americans who can afford health care and the Americans who happen to live in Massachusetts should have access to quality affordable health care, but other Americans should not.

This is a morally bankrupt position. Romney has every right to offer conservative critiques of Obama's plan -- but to propose to 'leave it up to the states' is to willfully neglect and discriminate against tens of millions of Americans who are uninsured and underinsured. They live in states where because of political realities, corporate interests, and the lobbying power of health insurers and some sectors of the health care industry there's next to no chance they will ever be afforded health care unless the federal government creates a legal and policy framework that provides all Americans on an equal basis with a common minimum standard for health care.

When the framers of the U.S. Constitution wrote its preamble they stated that one of their goals was to pursue the 'welfare' of the nation. There can be no welfare and well being without quality health care being affordable and accessible to every American.

The U.S. Declaration of Independence says that 'all men are created equal' and that all have the right to 'liberty and the pursuit of happiness.' There is no equality in America when the poor and many in the middle class have to choose between food and health care, rent and health care, or home heating and health care.

There is no liberty when one lacks the security and dependability of a reliable health service not just for emergencies but for the same ongoing health care that the majority of Americans currently enjoy but tens of millions of Americans do not. And there is no happiness when one is sick and cannot receive necessary medicines and medical procedures to recuperate from illness and injury and maximize health.

It's time for more honesty from Romney. On the one hand he claims to believe that all Americans are equal, but on the other, by attacking Obama's health care plan without offering a credible alternative that guarantees health care universally without discrimination on the basis of economic resources the policy he supports reflects the conviction that some are more equal than others.

Romney's stance on health care reform seriously calls into question his moral compass and undermines the democratic principles that form the basis of the American civic compact that necessitates shared sacrifice and commitment to the common good of the nation.

The politics of selfishness that excludes citizens from fulfillment of the most basic human need to health care under the disingenuous disguise of a commitment to states rights has no place in a democracy predicated on principles of equality, justice, and liberty and undermines each of these three core democratic values.