Constitution Day Reminds Us, Why Healthcare Reform?

we-the-peopleSeptember 17th is Constitution Day and will fall on this coming Thursday.   This holiday, sometimes referred to as Citizenship Day recognizes the ratification of the United States Constitution and those who have become U.S. citizens. It is observed on September 17, the day the U.S. Constitutional Convention signed the Constitution in 1787.  But this year, it takes on a new significance as our nation debates whether or not to provide universal healthcare to all citizens.  I have heard many opponents of universal healthcare ask, “Where in the Constitution does it say that we’re entitled to universal healthcare?”.  Follow me over the fold for the answer to this, and other questions about the amazing document at the core of our Democracy.

Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution says the Congress must provide for the general welfare of the United States.  Can it truly be said that Congress is fulfilling this mandate when fifty Americans die each day due to lack of health coverage?  Granted, providing for the general welfare cannot be interpreted to mean that Americans are entitled to have the Federal government buy them a house, groceries or a new pony.  This broad interpretation would give government powers beyond what the Constitution’s framers ever envisioned and would certainly be closer to Socialism than Capitalism.

However, Congress’s obligation to provide for the general welfare under the Constitution, along with the Constitutional provision of equal protection under the law DOES suggest that Congress has an obligation to ensure that people who work hard and save responsibly have an opportunity to secure those necessities.  The current system for healthcare in the US has been effectively rigged over the years so that many Americans are one emergency or illness away from having their coverage dropped by for-profit insurers who will then deny them any new coverage due to “pre-existing conditions”.   Many of our countrymen are given no options but death when extensive, expensive treatment is necessary.  This reality cannot be seen as consistent with the role of government as defined by the general welfare clause and equal protection clause of the Constitution.

With so many important debates taking place at this time in our history, and with so much at stake – from environmental degradation and green energy production to healthcare to allegations of torture sanctioned by the last administration, we will undoubtedly need to refer to the Constitution to guide us through these thorny issues.  This is why it is really a civic responsibility for all Americans to know what this founding document of our Democracy contains.  I have always re-read the Constitution on a yearly basis to reacquaint myself with the wisdom it contains.  I urge all Americans to do the same. 

Here is a link to a fantastic Powerpoint slideshow provided with permission byAES (retrieved on 09/14/09 ) that does a great job as a primer on the history and content of the US Constitution.  Enjoy and Happy Constitution Day!

28 Responses to “Constitution Day Reminds Us, Why Healthcare Reform?”

  1. Sharon Flittner

    I appreciate your opinion, but I do not agree. The government is not the answer to the health care issue, and I do not see how the Constitution guarantees this. Does it also promise us jobs, food, and shelter? The government is already providing these to millions, but government spending does not grow the economy. Creating another huge bureaucracy full of waste, fraud and abuse is not “healthy” for this country or its citizens. Opening up health insurance across state lines seems like such an obvious way to increase competition, but the federal administration won’t advocate this because they want total control.

  2. I respect your opinion and let me thank you first and foremost for sharing your thoughts. To answer your questions, first let me say that I don’t believe government is the answer to this problem. Rather competition is the answer and I believe government has the obligation to ensure fair competition. I refer to the original post wherein I make an argument that largely agrees with you that government should not be in the business of promising food and shelter. But Article 1 section 8 talks about providing for the general welfare of the nation. I think you are perhaps laboring under the popular misconception that the current proposed legislation calls for “government takeover” of the healthcare system. This is a popular fallacy being propagated by the insurance industry opponents of reform. A single payer system would be closer to this reality but no one is advocating for that. The public option is a government subsidized backstop for those who cannot get insurance elsewhere and it would work alongside all the existing PRIVATE insurance options. That is nothing like a takeover of healthcare by the govt. It is providing a safety net for all citizens who may fall on hard times or lose a job. It truly fulfills the intent of Article 1, Section 8. Medicare and Veterans Administration healthcare plans are both Single Payer programs adminsitered by the govt and they both enjoy user satisfaction rates above 80% among seniors and military veterans who use them. They did not lead to Socialism in the US either. Just excellent examples of government providing for the general welfare of the citizenry.

    Thanks for your comment and feel free to further debate the point. Glad to have thinking people here to polish our collective understanding of the issues before us through reasoned, civil discourse.

  3. Helena Henry

    Great post Anthony. I agree with you completely about Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution which says that Congress must provide for the welfare of the United States. Currently, the welfare of the United States is being threatened by the current system of healthcare which does not have the best interests of the people of the Unites States as its goal. When people loose their homes and savings due to the untrolled insurance companies and their restrictive tenents, when they cannot get healthcare because they were sick before, or did not report minor problem which has nothing to due with their current illness, some one needs to step in an start putting things right.. Congress is the only institution with the power to institute the changes
    and it needs to be done yesterday.

  4. Leah Phillips-Harold

    Great post Anthony. I agree with you completely about Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution which says that Congress must provide for the welfare of the United States. I as an American believe that we should all be able to have affordable Health insurance. The problem is that if you have health issues you can not get affordable insurance. I have been paying for COBRA for months and that is not affordable insurance. I believe every American should have medical insurance just like car insurance. I am one of those American’s hoping for an answer.

  5. Dawn Gutierrez

    I to agree with you Anthony. I am one of those Americans that does not have health insurance do to the high cost. I also believe that it is not a take over that the government wants but to make it affordable for all. How we got in this position deals with the the past and we need to move on and make the change ” for the people and by the people” is what I believe in. There has not been anoyone in government that has had the courage to go through with the tough decissions that need to be made for Health Reform to take place. I think that it is about time someone is taking that risk.

    • Samantha Hoff

      I think that there should be some type of universal health care for everyone because there are some people who work hard, but can’t afford the high cost of insurance. I don’t believe the government is trying to take total control of health insurance, I think that they are just offering another option to people who can’t afford the costs, and then suffer when they are sick because they don’t have insurance.

    • Jane Snowberger

      I agree with Samantha and others on the health reform issue. But, I believe the new president is not accepting the fact that he and congress is moving in the wrong direction and will be responsible for further breakdown of the health care system. I do not believe all our resources should be given to aliens because the government is not taking care of our own citizens. And if the president gets his way, we seniors that are on socicial security will not be able to have health care at all. The government does not have the right to decide if a person is not worthy enough to get medical help and be left to die.

  6. Roslyn Roe

    Anthony,
    You did a great job with this article. I to, agree with you in what the constitution says about the welfare of the United States. I feel that when all the redrick is over and the “I don’t want this or that” in the health care bill, that congress will do the right thing and provide a good base for health care reform, not total take over, that will be good for everyone. The regulation of the helath insurance companies will continue to be the correct path to go down. Of course, the insurance companies are going to put the doubt in the American people because they are going to lose there ability to say who can, how much, and who pays what. So far they have been doing a good job of that.
    I feel that President Obama is doing something that no one had the courage or the gumption to do in the past. He is standing with the American people and saying to the insurance companies –enough!

  7. Claudia Hoeppner (Pinki)

    Anthony,
    Very good comments. However, when I think back to the time of when our constitution was written I believe the barter system was thriving. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could trade that chicken for a house visit from the doctor when we are sick?

    As said, “Freedom is not Free”. Healthcare is a prime example.

    Pinki

  8. Anthony,
    I whole heartedly agree with you. I have worked hard since I was 15, am an American citizen, and I do not have insurance. I do believe that people like me should have a way to get insurance; but at this point I can’t afford my husbans and I am a stay at home mom/full time student here. I have pre existing conditions; so even if I could afford it. These things would not be covered for almost a year under most plans. I have no problem paying something; my husband does work full time but I cannot afford 400 dollars a month. This is one of the reasons I am here; to get a good paying job so that I can get insurance. What many of us don’t realize as Americans is the people in the service industry, those people we see every day, do not make as much as they should. My husband is an hourly manager but his salary cannot sustain a family of four in this day and age. Gone are the days of a man/woman being a single breadwinner for the family. And unfortunately, Pinki, the days are gone for most for things like the barter system and professional courtesy visits. People are too greedy for those things to come back into poplularity. I would gladly be involved in a barter system. But this is what we call “progress”. I would say it is debatable.

  9. Health Care Reform

    I too agree with the healthcare reform bill. Many people want to close their eyes to the problems we have in this country because it’s not happening to them.

    They complain about the budget like it wasn’t a mess already, they talk about our fore fathers and what they wanted, if memory serves me correct, our four fathers had slaves, so why are they being held as an example of what’s right for the country. Our president has given us real life examples of people losing everything because they or someone in their family becomes ill. Where is the compassion? I wish for the sake of teaching those opposed to healthcare reform a lesson, they would find themselves without any health coverage and then see which side of the fence they would be on.

    I think government involvement is the only solution to help this country and make it right for all people, not just those who have. People who oppose this bill need to ask themselves why? what is really bugging you about helping people get medical care they so desperately need? We finally get a president who wants everyone to be treated fair and equal and look at the problems this causes.

  10. edward honiker

    I agree with you, Anthony, while the Constitution doesn’t specifically guarantee health care and other services to all people, it does perhaps offer us some protection from large drug manufacturers and health insurers, who because of their size and wealth, have the ability to distort and manipulate the market. I read several shocking articles this week concerning individuals having their insurance cancelled during a time of need. Even though the patients’ involved pursued legal courses of action, and ultimately won, the states were hesitant to enforce the judgements due to the money and power that the health insurers were able to bring to the legal arena. If nothing else gets fixed by the reform, this is one issue that must be addressed and corrected.

  11. We are in need for the government to start taking care of its people and providing universal healthcare is the way to start. We spend so much of our lives worrying about how to pay for basic health issues and we work just as hard to obtain the money to be able to pay for it, but how are we to achieve prosperity if the government takes so much of our pay and yet we became unhealthy we have to put off from going to the doctors because we have no time and we need to go to work and not miss a day to have enough to take a day off and go to the doctor when it can be too late to do preventive care then it becomes critical. I want my kids and my grand-kids to have health-care that they do not have worry or over work themselves because its too expensive. The USA is always busy saving other countries and yet we need to be saved too. Lets get rolling.

  12. Emilia Ciardullo

    Mr. Anthony,
    I agree that the government is obligated to act with respect to the health care crisis in this country, however the basis of the specific language of the Constiution to support your premise is in error, and in consequence, the conclusions drawn on the means to reach that end. The Constitution specifically states the Federal Government is to “promote” the general welfare, not provide. The disctinction is that the Federal Government’s obligation is to ensure a level and fair playing field for the health insurance industry on all levels, which I believe most agree to date has been an abysmal failure. Just as anti-trust laws and regulatory commisions are created to counter capital market greed from excessive abuses in other industries, the Federal Government needs to honor its obligation to promote the welfare of the citizens in healthcare, and there are 4 areas at the immediate disposal of Congress that are fully supported by the people. 1) reduce federal fraud and waste in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, 2) legislate serious tort reform to stem the number of frivolous lawsuits of unfounded malpractice and outrageous damage awards, that are the major fuel of continually escalating medical costs. 3) Anti-abuse legislation targeting the medical insurance industry, specifically for failing to provide or delaying contract benefits, and for dropping people from coverage after their policy has been in force, due to any illness. Lastly, #4 should be to open up the market to Health Insurance competition across the entire U.S., just as it is for homeowner and auto insurance.

    Your statement on citing the excellent examples of government providing healthcare is a bit incredible; those systems are all going broke. If the Government provides more healthcare to more people, it is not going to improve anything, but will make it worse. Aside from the argument that it is clearly Unconsitutional to force any one to purchase health insurance (or tax them if they don’t), it is quite contradictory and nonsensical to support a proposition that the very people who can’t afford to purchase insurance are going to be forced to do so, or be placed in Federal debt if they fail to do so. Sounds like the proscribed cure is worse than the disease in that scenario. Besides, if the Federal Government hasn’t effective tackled the fraud and abuse already acknowledged in the 3 programs already existing, how are they going to fare with a new program that is bigger than those 3 combined together? That is why responsible and caring Americans should be for health care reform, but against the ill conceived “public option”, however well intentioned it may appear.

    Thank you.

    • Thanks for your reasoned reply Emilia. A few things to point out regarding errors in your rebuttal. First, no one is suggesting a single payer plan be enacted to replace the insurance industry. If this were being proposed, your argument underlining the shortcomings of Medicare and Medicaid would hold more water. But the public option proposed by President Obama and the House Progressive Caucus would simply add a government funded OPTION to compete against private insurers. This would force private insurers to compete. Right now they have a near monopoly in many markets. Which brings me to my second point of rebuttal. You mention that anti-trust laws are in place to counter greed and abuses. Did you know that health insurers – once non-profits – were exempted from anti-trust laws in the 1980s? I would be in favor of returning this safeguard to the markets. Next, I too agree that there shouldnt be mandates which require all persons to purchase health insurance, unless there is an affordable private option for them to choose. Massachussetts has a mandate but no public option and it is hurting lower income citizens in that state. Lastly, the tort reform argument is a canard used by the right wing to limit damages for people horribly maimed by medical malpractice. Are there cases of frivolous litigation? Yes for sure. However, by and large most medical malpractice litigation is legitmate and tort reform would save on the order of 5% according to CBO estimates. Taken alone, tort reform is not the silver bullet to healthcare reform. Thanks for commenting. Please visit and commetn again!

      • Emilia Ciardullo

        Mr. Anthony,
        Thanks for taking the time to reply; a few points will be reiterated to clarify. First, I am not in error merely because of differing in my opinions, as you contend. Cases in point are clearly the facts, Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security are going bankrupt – how much more “water” and fraud would it take to convince you and others of these facts? Second, I never suggested a public option as anything other than a poor idea, or that it would ever replace health insurance. Third, your 2nd point of “rebuttal is moot, you either agree or don’t. If you are agreeing with ant-trust legislation as you state, then there’s nothing to rebut on that issue, which begs the question, because I said this needs to be addressed by Congress specific to health insurers; you are implying that I said such legislation already exists.

        Next, you state in error that we agree on health insurance mandates – we don’t. I do not agree under any circumstances that the goverment has a constitutional right to force anyone to buy health insurance, regardless of how many options. Regulate fair competion, certainly; force me to by the goverment’s policy if I don’t want any, No! Why don’t we just force everybody to buy life insurance next? A very dangerous road.

        With respect to malpractice insurance, it is the costs of insuring against the potential risk, and not the actual malpractice, where the bulk of the money is being spent by physicians, and guess who pays for that? And while most malpractice litigation is legitimate, that does not speak to the ridiulous awards in many instances. So this is not about depriving anyone of their deserved damages. Every docor, medical facility and medical professional has malpractice premiums that spiral upwards every year. What about the government giving the medical professionals an option for the government to insure them instead of private health insurers; I’m sure medical professionals and facilities could get very competitive once that overhead was reduced. With respect to goverment being cost competitive to private practicioners, it is based on flawed logic. It rests on the premise that medical professionals will accept lower payments; I just discussed the glaring issue of malpractice premiums! That issue hasn’t even been addressed; what kind of doctors are going to accept less money.? Do you know that many medical specialist will simply not accept Medicaid? So why would they accept the public option? The only logical answer to these question is that the government will have to force professionals to accept the coverage, just like they want to force everone to buy medical coverage. Finally, in mentioning CBO numbers, I’m wondering why the CBO’s repeated projections on the massive deficit spending which the “public option” will cost, over a trillion dollars, isn’t being referenced by President Obama or other public option proponents?

        Thank You,
        Emilia

  13. Nancy Smitley

    I do agree that we need to do something with our health care. I just don’t want them to tell me this is what you get. I would like to see it be a choice of many different plans. Open all across the board. Just like our car, life insurance is.

    The price tag is a little high. However, if it’s worth it I wont complain to loudly.

  14. Lilia Cadotte

    I enjoy reading about what others have to say. It is very interesting. I agree that we do need as much assistance we can get with healthcare. There is such a need for it because we are a growing world and there are many out there that just can’t afford a plan for coverage. I was one of them at one point in time. The spokes person in the VMA talked about healthcare and how its free in England and Europe; he also shared how important it was to pull it forward to the US. I agree with him. We do need this.

    • Lillian Valadez

      I agree there needs to be reform. I am a single mom paying $400.00 amonth for a not so great policy, but I had to have something. I really can’t say I know what the answer is , but I think the government should take their time and make the best choices for all. However, it is politics and I’m sure there are insurance companies who have people lobbying for them and making the fight even harder for the average American citizen to get any help. At the end of the day, it is always about THE MONEY!

  15. Christine Barone

    I also agree that the goverment is not the solution to health care, but we need to start the reform somewhere.
    There are so many illegal’s in this country, and do you know they can get free healthcare, all they have to do is go to a hospital and get treated, I go get treated and I have a $1000.00 bill after my insurance paid. So is this fair? To hard working American’s like myself who were born and this country. We are picking up the slack from all the people who can not pay.

  16. Tracy Burkholder

    I personally feel that we need to have some kind of uniform health care for everyone. There are way to many people out there that don’t have insurance. Because they don’t have insurance they don’t go to the doctors or hospital because they can’t afford it. My family is in that position right now. My husband was laid off from his job, we were given the option of the COBRA insurance but we can’t afford it for a family. I can remember my grandfather talking about if they went to the doctors they paid them in crops or chickens or whatever they had.

  17. Sara Estep

    We do need to have some sort of health care reform.

    I went to a website with a Q/A page it explained that “chronic diseases make up 85% of healthcare expeditures in the United States- most of which are preventable.To reduce costs it is paramount that health reform invests in prevention and wellness. Insuring americans currently without insurance would save between $75 billion and $125 billion per year or 3/4 percent of GDP. If trends continue, by the year 2019 it is estimated that 65.7 million people will be uninsured.” (http://healthreform.gov/forums/healthreformquiz.html)

    I would like to save for my retirement not my chronic disease.

  18. Religion can provide a sense of community to society, and it can be a great resource to improve community health. In a similar way, psychologists involved in working with public health do not just work on the people’s psyche, but also with the world’s well-being. It is important to understand the participation of psychologists in Health Policy and Healthcare, since they can provide change on human behavior, for individual and community matters. If you think about it, a person can be better for a body illness, but remain with traumatic disorders. I’ve been reading some publications by the psychologist Dr. MauriceProutphd, which I found on his website http://www.MauriceProutphd.com. He often discusses about Innovations in Clinical Practice, topics that may give interesting perspectives to complement your post

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