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Is Health Care a Constitutional Right?

The Constitution

The 10th Amendment reserves powers to the states that are not expressly delegated to the Federal Government by the Constitution. Given that there exists no express provision in regard to health care, many construe this to mean that health care is not a constitutional right.

Indeed the most progress toward a right of this sort has been made only in regard to an inmates' constitutional right to health care. Many maintain that a right to health care is an imposition of a positive obligation on another and that this necessarily requires the individual toward whom this right extends, to gain ownership over another's services for the provision of health care. Accordingly they say, no such right can exist.

Still, many have called for further amendment of the Constitution, which requires the enlisting of support among citizens to take charge of their laws, to elect to change them, and to recognize the priority of health care for citizens over the right to carry a gun.

As this is most often a circular argument, the more effective arguments for the basic right of health care, stem from the fact that the World Health Organization and other international human rights treaties recognize the right to the 'highest attainable standard' of health. Further, the United States is party to many such international treaties and conventions in which customary international law and conformity with human rights provisions would necessarily find the US bound to affirm the right to basic health care upon every citizen in order to avoid contravening its international accords.

In California.

If no right to health care exists at federal level, according to the 10th Amendment, the right to health care is a matter for the states. In California, the most populous state in the US, measures have been taken to address the issue of uninsured citizens, however to date; a universal system of health care has not been reached. 

Senator Sheila Kuehl introduced the California Health Insurance Reliability Act in 2006, which implemented a single payer state run insurance system in California that would provide every Californian citizen with access to health care. This bill was passed by the senate and also the assembly legislatures but was vetoed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

Four states including Maine, Illinois, Massachusetts and Vermont have passed universal health care legislation, and had this bill been allowed passage, it would have meant historic reform for all Californians, and would have resolved a large part of the national crisis to do with the 47 million Americans still left uninsured for health care.

Governor Schwarzenegger and other opposition to the bill claim that the funding for the scheme needed revision and would entertain a tax on business if any, in order to fund such a proposal. Senator Kuehl would have reorganized the taxes on business and personal income tax but primarily concentrated on the $8 billion administrative savings to be gained from a single payer, global billing system of health care.

As the matter lies in the democracy of state legislature, it appears that funding proves to be the main obstacle to the pathway for universal health care in California. 


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