"Health care." In media and politics, the phrase has become a cliche that easily slides into rhetoric and wonkery. The tweaking Washington debate runs parallel to the bottom line of corporate health care. While government officials talk, the principle of health care as a human right goes begging.
Routinely, two contexts -- the macro and the personal -- obscure each other. Numbers may represent people, but people are anything but numbers. Paper, computer screens, claim forms and spreadsheets keep flattening humanity into commodity. But, of course, no one you love can ever be understood as a statistic.
What's in place is a profit-driven system of health care with devastating effects on human beings. Even the most illuminating stats tend to become glib, abstracting calibration of damage to lives in the United States, where at any moment 47 million people are uninsured and another 50 million are badly under-insured.
In the presidential race, with "health care" a frequent topic, John McCain offers more capitulation to the insurance industry. Speaking in the usual GOP terms, he calls for "ridding the market of both needless and costly regulations." Under his plan, McCain acknowledged on July 24, "There would be no limits to premiums."
Meanwhile, nationwide efforts are underway to bring grassroots views on health care into the 2008 Democratic Party Platform that will be adopted in late August at the national convention. In the mix is a "Statement in Support of Guaranteed Health Care for All."
Since it was launched by Progressive Democrats of America last week, the statement has already gained signers among convention delegates from more than 30 states. If you'd like to be part of this effort to move the national discourse on health care policy in a more progressive direction:
* Click here and find the names of your area's delegates to the Democratic National Convention.
* Contact those delegates and urge them to sign onto the Statement for Guaranteed Health Care for All. Any delegate can go online and become a signer.
* Pass this information along to others.
The statement urges the convention to adopt a platform plank to "guarantee accessible health care for all" in the United States, to "create a single standard of high quality, comprehensive, and preventive health care for all" -- and to "eliminate financial barriers that prevent families and individuals from obtaining the medically necessary care they need."
Barack Obama's website summarizes his current position with references to "affordable health coverage," "participating insurance companies" and "private insurance" as centerpieces of his health care plan. But private insurance companies are antithetical to truly guaranteeing health care for all with a single standard of care. They're in the business of limiting and denying health care, while maximizing profits.
In contrast, H.R. 676 -- the single-payer bill introduced by Rep. John Conyers that now has 90 co-sponsors in the House -- would guarantee publicly funded, privately delivered health care for everyone in the United States.
Conyers was the first 2008 Democratic National Convention delegate to become a signer of the Guaranteed Health Care for All statement. It notes that "the U.S. Conference of Mayors, at its June 2008 national meeting, passed a resolution in support of single-payer health care" and that "35 state AFL-CIO organizations support single-payer health care."
We need health care that's publicly funded and guaranteed for all -- not theoretical "insurance coverage" that in the real world is much less solid than Swiss cheese.
Health care. A human right. What a concept.
Norman Solomon, author of "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death," is a national co-chair of the Healthcare Not Warfare campaign, initiated by Progressive Democrats of America. He is an elected Obama delegate to the Democratic National Convention.