Today, President Obama is hosting a summit to discuss reforming the nation’s health care system with “about 150 elected officials and representatives of groups that have much at stake in the outcome.” In response, Rep. Zach Wamp (R-TN) went on MSNBC to explain his opposition to Obama’s stated goal of comprehensive health care reform, arguing that health care is “a privilege,” not a right:
WAMP: Listen, health care a privilege. [...]
MSNBC: Well, it’s a privilege? Health care? I mean if you have cancer right now, do you see it as a privilege to get treatment?
WAMP: I was just about to say, for some people it’s a right. But for everyone, frankly, it’s not necessarily a right.
Wamp went on to claim that many Americans are uninsured by choice because they “rejected” the insurance plan offered by their employers. Asked to respond to Wamp, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) remarked “Well my reaction is that it was said by somebody who has a really good health [insurance] plan as a member of the House of Representatives.” “More importantly than that [health care] is a right in this country,” Brown concluded. Watch a compilation:
Aside from the fact that healthcare for Americans cannot — from an economic or a humanitarian stand point — be viewed as a privilege, Wamp is misrepresenting exactly why so many Americans lack coverage. Indeed, as the Kaiser Family foundation documented, 64 percent of American workers who are uninsured are not actually offered an employer-sponsored health care plan. In all, just 20 percent of uninsured workers who are offered employer-sponsored coverage decline to participate.
Further, those workers — and low-wage workers in particular — who decline to participate in employer-sponsored plans often do so because they are unable to afford coverage, even with the contributions offered by their employers. As such, it is not surprising that between 52 and 59 percent of all uninsured Americans come from low-income families.