Martin Luther King Jr and Health Reform
“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”
That’s a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., from a speech given at a convention for the Medical Committee for Human Rights in 1966.
The Medical Committee for Human Rights advocated for equal access to health care for all Americans, regardless of race. In that same year, Dr. King saw one of his marchers die for lack of access to proper medical care in Mississippi’s segregated hospital system.
This year, as we mark Martin Luther King Day in the United States, it’s tempting to wonder what Dr. King would have felt about the state of health care and health insurance today.
Would Martin Luther King have supported the Affordable Care Act?
It’s clear from the historical record that Dr. King cared deeply about equal access to health care for all Americans, especially for those who were disenfranchised by the medical system of his day.
No one can really say what Martin Luther King would have thought about the health reform law. But it’s reasonable to think he might have recognized that it goes some distance toward addressing the issue of unequal access to care.
Americans today have mixed feelings about the Affordable Care Act. Some see it as an intrusion of government into their personal lives. Others worry that it will increase the cost of health insurance and medical care.
Most of us can recognize, however, that the law makes it easier for people to get the coverage they need when they need it most.
Remember, it was only a month ago that people who needed health insurance the most – that is, people with pre-existing medical conditions – were precisely the ones who couldn’t get it. If they didn’t have employer-based health insurance, they were often out of luck.
Being uninsured makes it harder to access medical care. It also means that you pay more for the medical care you receive compared to someone who has health insurance. That’s because uninsured people don’t benefit from the discounted rates negotiated by health insurance companies.
If you weren’t personally affected by the inequities of health insurance access prior to 2014, you probably had friends or relatives who were. You might have seen them unable to get the care they needed, or buried under medical debt. It didn’t seem fair.
For most Americans, those days are over.
Maybe the new reality hasn’t sunk in yet for you. But if you lose your job or your health insurance today, you can never again be declined coverage just because you happen to really need medical care.
That’s something to be grateful for.
Happy Martin Luther King Day from all of us at eHealth.