Why Health Care Is A Moral Issue

Americans agree that everyone has a right to an education and a legal defense but not to health care

Janice Harayda
6 min readAug 18, 2022


U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsmen helping during the pandemic / U.S. Navy via Wikimedia Commons

Nearly everyone agrees that American health care is — in some ways — sick. Even people who are satisfied with the system dislike aspects of it.

More than 94% of Americans say the cost of their health care is “higher than it should be,” according to a recent Gallup/West Health poll. Nearly half say the Covid-19 pandemic has taken a toll their faith in a system that gives an outsized role to major drug and insurance companies.

Many provisions of the just-enacted Inflation Reduction Act — intended to rein in soaring drug costs — won’t take effect for years and have substantial limits. An example is the new rule that allows Medicare to negotiate the prices of 10 of the costliest prescription drugs starting in 2026, followed by 15 more in 2027. More than half of all adults over 65 take four or more drugs, none of which may have their prices lowered through the process.

Behind all the debates lies a larger issue that Congress has failed to engage: The health care crisis is a moral one, as the former Washington Post reporter Reid argues elegantly in The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care (Penguin, 2009).

Alone among well-off democracies, the U.S. has never made a moral choice to guarantee health care for all, writes Reid, who has reported from dozens of countries for the Post and other media:

“All developed countries except the United States have decided that every human has a basic right to health care.”

Author T. R. Reid / Credit: Penguin Press

Americans have decided that everyone deserves an education and a legal defense, regardless of the cost or difficulty of providing these, Reid notes.

But they have never decided that everybody has a right to health care. Because we haven’t, the U.S. is the only country in which medical bills can bankrupt people. It’s the only one in which patients who have paid their health insurance premiums for years can — and do — have…



Janice Harayda

Critic, novelist, award-winning journalist. Former book editor of the Plain Dealer and book columnist for Glamour. Words in NYT, WSJ, and other major media.