The UN High Level Meeting (HLM) on Universal Health Coverage (UHC) will take place on September 23rd, 2019 at the UN General Assembly in New York, USA. The theme of the meeting, “Universal Health Coverage: Moving Together to Build a Healthier World”, will be discussed among political figures, health leaders, and policy-makers from around the world.
Although the central theme of UHC promotes the UN’s commitment to ensuring health for all, the political declaration to be adopted at the HLM does not adequately address how UHC will be achieved and fails to address pressing issues that challenge health across the globe. PHM-USA shares the concerns of the Civil Society Assessment of the Political Declaration of the UN HLM on UHC and upholds its call in our commitment to working towards UHC and health for all.
Achieving UHC will ensure that all people–especially vulnerable and marginalized populations–receive high quality care that fosters physical and mental health and positively impacts economic, political, and social determinants of health. However, as the Civil Society Assessment says, “UHC can be interpreted in multiple ways, but its dominant discourse seems to be favouring market based neoliberal reforms.”
The political declaration fails to acknowledge the broad scope of Primary Health Care, as espoused in the Alma Ata Declaration, and instead attempts to include it under Universal Health Coverage. This is problematic because “the term coverage rather than care either suggests a limited scope of care or is being used to suggest enrolment in an insurance scheme.” The political declaration also fails to acknowledge the damaging effect for-profit companies have on people’s health and the “reality that expanding coverage by ushering in the private sector results in inequities in access and rising health expenditure.” What is necessary to address the worsening health crisis is strengthening public health systems.
In the US we see the dire consequences of a market-based, profit-driven system, which simultaneously produces the highest healthcare costs in the world and some of the worst health outcomes in the world. With a healthcare system dominated by profit motives rather than ensuring people’s health, the US has utterly failed to provide health services in a just and equitable way. Despite the availability of advanced medical technologies and treatments, thousands of people in the US die each year because of the high costs of healthcare and lack health insurance needed to access care. On top of that, pharmaceutical companies drive drug prices sky-high, which has created prohibitively expensive costs for life-saving medications. The current health system–which leaves thousands sick, in debt, or both–must be re-imagined to work for the majority rather than the minority.
PHM-USA, along with civil society from across the globe, urges governments, multilevel organizations, and NGOs to address the concerns this assessment raises:
- UHC must not be understood only as health insurance. Strengthening public health care is necessary to achieve health equity and to ensure that vulnerable populations, such as the poor, informal workers, indigenous people, and women, receive high quality health care. The global community must commit to public financing for health care services and delivery.
- Private, for-profit companies should not be in a position to influence health policy. The declaration should recognize that achieving the right to health is not compatible with maximizing profits.
- UHC must ensure that people have access to primary health care, as espoused in the Alma Ata Declaration, and the full range of health services needed through the lifecourse, including sexual and reproductive health care.
Please join global civil society in sending a strong message to world leaders by endorsing the Civil Society Assessment of the Political Declaration of the UN HLM on UHC.
Get involved in the movement to achieve UHC in the United States! We must join together in our commitment to prioritizing health as a human right for all people. Consider becoming involved by taking the following actions:
1. Ask your Member of Congress to support HR 1384: The Medicare for All Act. Use this tool to find your representative and how to contact them.
2. Stay informed about which political candidates in the 2020 campaign have made a commitment to advancing health care access–not just for the rich but for all people. See how candidates have formally declared their positions here, and consider becoming involved in campaigns for candidate(s) you feel strongly about.
3. Vote in local and national elections for candidates who have a strategic plan and real commitment to UHC.
4. Join the movement for UHC–this resource provides information, trainings, and other grassroots-led actions to join.
5. Become active with the HOPE Campaign, a coalition of single-payer activists working to achieve health for all in the US through improved Medicare for All.