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Democrats Offer Their Prescriptions: Rev. Al Sharpton

There were 75 million Americans who had no health insurance sometime during 2001-2002, plus more than 40 million who are currently underinsured. Health care is a major issue in the 2004 presidential campaign.

President Bush and the Republicans are deliberately bankrupting the federal government in order to achieve one of their long-desired goals — the elimination of Medicare and Medicaid. They want to impose their privatization scheme — Medical Savings Accounts. Other presidential candidates — taking their lead from Rep. Richard Gephardt’s (D-Mo.) initial proposal — have offered alternative plans.

My approach is completely different. I believe Democrats are putting the cart before the horse. We must first establish that health care is a human right, then fight to put that moral right in the Constitution as a new amendment. I support Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.’s (D-Ill.) H.J. Res. 30. It says, “All citizens of the United States shall enjoy the right to health care of equal high quality” and “the Congress shall have power to implement this article by appropriate legislation.”

The United States spends almost 15 percent, or $1.4 trillion, of our $11 trillion gross domestic product on health care, yet we ranked only 37th among 191 nations’ health care systems analyzed by the World Health Organization in 2000. We are the only industrialized democracy that does not have some system of national health care for all of its citizens.

There is also a systemic problem — the 10th Amendment to the Constitution. Since the words “health care” are not in the Constitution, health care is a “state right.”

Attorney General John Ashcroft wrote to the National Rifle Association asserting that every American has an individual constitutional right to a gun. Americans both agree and disagree with that interpretation of the Constitution. However, if Americans had a choice between the right to a gun and the right to health care, it would be nearly unanimous — Americans would choose health care! If that is the priority of the American people, then we should have the wisdom and political will to codify it in the Constitution.

The advantage of fighting for human rights and constitutional amendments is they are nonpartisan, they’re nonideological, and they don’t require a particular means, approach or program to realize them). They’re also not a “special interest.” They’re for all Americans.

Charlton Heston believes in an individual constitutional right to a gun. I believe in an individual constitutional right to health care!

The Rev. Al Sharpton is a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.

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