Observations Atlantic crossing

The US muddle over a child's right to health care

BMJ 2007; 335 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.39360.488576.59 (Published 11 October 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;335:749
  1. Uwe E Reinhardt, James Madison professor of political economy
  1. Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey
  1. reinhard{at}princeton.edu

    Up to eight million children of poor American families are without health insurance—so why is there a dispute over children's right to health care?

    After the demise of President Bill Clinton's health reform plan in 1994, I posed for readers of JAMA (1997;278:1446-7) this question: “As a matter of national policy, and to the extent that a nation's health system can make it possible, should the child of a poor American family have the same chance of avoiding preventable illness or of being cured from a given disease as does the child of a rich American family?”

    That question has long been answered in the affirmative in most other industrialised nations. In the United States it evokes irritation. Of the several letters triggered by my question, all but one were from physicians. None of them answered the question but instead attacked me as a socialist “with the ancient propagandistic use of children.” Only one letter, penned by Richard A Epstein, a law professor at the University of Chicago, addressed my question head on, with a resounding “no.” He argued: “His [Reinhardt's] proposal for equal treatment …

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