Enshrine the right to health care

Your physical and mental health defines the quality of your life and your ability to contribute to the success of your family, community, and country. Everyone deserves a constitutional right to access health care to seek freedom from pain and disease and maximize the well-being of society. Such a right is obviously in the interest of the individual, especially those who can’t afford quality health care. But it’s also in the interest of the population at large.

In a society where anyone can access prevention and treatment with compassion for any malady, human dignity is elevated, productivity is enhanced, and needless physical, mental, and economic suffering is minimized.

That’s why I have introduced an amendment to the Constitution in Congress that states: “Health care, including care to prevent and treat illness, is the right of the people and necessary to ensure the strength of the Nation. The Congress shall have power to enforce and implement this article by appropriate legislation.”

We are a nation that spends trillions of dollars annually on health care — publicly and privately. The federal government pays for or operates a myriad of programs and health care systems: Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare for service members and their families, the Veterans Administration, the Indian Health Service, federally qualified Community Health Centers — the list goes on. Yet without a constitutional right to health care, millions are left behind, especially communities of color and low-income families. The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us that the status quo is failing.

Once health care becomes a constitutionally enshrined right, the pursuit of happiness and a better future will be within the reach of all — and not just the privileged.

Betty McCollum represents Minnesota’s Fourth Congressional District in the US House of Representatives.