The North Carolina Influencer Series

Is universal health care a right? Here’s what community leaders think.


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The North Carolina Influencer series

The Charlotte Observer, The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun in Durham are launching a conversation between readers and important thought leaders throughout North Carolina.

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When we asked readers across North Carolina what issues mattered most to them this election year access to health care ranked high.

Using an online tool called Your Voice, we asked what questions readers had for NC leaders about health care issues. Here is the question they wanted us to pose to the 60 NC Influencers about health care: “Universal health care is a fundamental right recognized by the poorest countries. What steps can North Carolina take to achieve that goal?”

Here is a sampling of responses from NC Influencers:

Liz Chen, Co-founder of MyHealthEd

“In order to achieve universal healthcare, North Carolina’s first step should be to expand Medicaid so that more North Carolinians have health insurance and therefore more access to care.”

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Liz Chen

James Coleman, Duke law professor

“Elect politicians committed to making that (universal health care) a goal; politicians who are not captured by people who profit from the current system.”

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James Coleman

Bishop Hope Morgan Ward, NC Conference of the United Methodist Church

“Increase funding for public health and care for all.”

Frank Emory, law partner, chairs Economic Development Partnership of NC

“I am wary of designating health care as a right. Doing so suggests that the citizen has no responsibility for his/her care and the expense of it. It is, however, clearly a public good. Figuring out how to pay for (universal health care) would be a critical first step. Second, one would need to determine if “universal” means anyone within the borders of the state at any given time.”

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Frank Emory

Mark Vitner, Senior Economist Wells Fargo

Health care is far too complicated to be solved with sweeping pronouncements, such as making universal health care a fundamental right. There is considerable disagreement with what “universal health care” and “fundamental right” actually mean. North Carolinians should have access to high quality health care facilities, which they largely do. The issue is how you pay for it. I do not believe that North Carolina should emulate the policies of the poorest countries of the world because their circumstances, capabilities and expectations are far different from what they are here.”

Bree Newsome, activist

“North Carolina’s state constitution describes education as a right. We should do the same with health care access.”

Catherine Lawson, attorney, started the #MeAt14 campaign

“As a community, we have a moral obligation to care for each other. But that’s not the same thing as having a fundamental right to specific government policies. Communities and leaders should work together on solutions that address the challenges of comprehensive health care without basing it on a question of political philosophy.”

Art Pope, CEO Variety Wholesalers, Chairman John William Pope Foundation

“Citizens are not entitled to “universal” or “free” health care, which means health care provided by a government monopoly and paid for by others. Universal health care is not a natural or constitutional right. Just as importantly, even good faith attempts to provide “universal health care,” results in government run health care that is rationed, of poorer quality and more costly. The universal right of every person is for the person to decide how much health care or health coverage to buy, in what form, and from whom. Governments encroach on this right all the time with taxes and regulations. Policymakers should expand and protect our health care freedom, rather than replace that freedom with a “universal health care” run by a government bureaucracy. While I do not believe that universal health care is a right, I do believe that voluntary charitable care should be given to those in need who cannot provide for themselves.”

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Art Pope

Sharon Decker, COO Tryon Equestrian Partners

“Start by agreeing that universal health care should be a fundamental right! That’s the beginning and I think it is a step we ought to take.”

Astrid Chirinos, Executive Director Simmons YMCA

“Change the NC Legislature!”

Madison Shook, GOP fundraiser

“To say that health care should be a “fundamental right” is an attempt to define the issue in terms of constitutional law, bringing a policy issue best left to elected officials into the hands of unelected federal judges.”

Sallie Shuping Russell, former managing director, BlackRock

“North Carolina can recognize the public responsibility to develop a wellness oriented citizenry by expanding access to care using existing medical financial coverage and expanding Medicaid, as well as establishing minimum expectations for care provision.”

Joan Zimmerman, CEO Southern Shows Inc.

“Somewhere in this amazing country, there must be individuals who can figure out how we can achieve health care available, as needed, for all our people — a system that prevents individuals from taking advantage of the system, a system that is simple and easily understood by all, and a system that will provide compassionate and professional care where and when needed, at a cost that will not bankrupt the country and without more layers of bureaucracy. Maybe this is a puzzle we can turnover to the trillion-dollar companies we have all helped create.”

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Joan Zimmerman

Michael Marsicano, Foundation For The Carolinas president

“We need to get past partisan politics on healthcare, come together, and hammer out a plan that will work to guarantee this fundamental right.”

Webb Hubbell, author and former Clinton administration member

“Expand Medicaid, require health insurers who cover government and businesses in this state to offer an individual policy in this state that is equal a minimum ACA policy with affordable premiums.”

Richard Vinroot, law partner, former Charlotte mayor

“It (access to health care) is probably every family’s most pressing concern at some point (usually as they grow older) and many simply put off proper coverage and protection until crises occur. Thus, our nation’s leaders need to develop a workable and comprehensive plan that will alleviate that reality once and for all. Exactly what, and how, I don’t know. But it must be done, and surely it can in a country as great as ours.”

Pearl Burris Floyd, Secretary UNC Board of Governors

“North Carolina will continue to provide highly reliable healthcare through training the best doctors, nurses, technologists in the world; using technological advances in telemedicine and robotics; continuing the process of embracing good health policy, such as whole person integrated care and treating the whole person, and much more. I wouldn’t trade my health care in rural North Carolina for any label from the poorest countries embracing a slogan of universal health care.”

Kit Cramer, CEO Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce

“If North Carolina wanted to be a leader in universal health care we would not only expand Medicaid, we’d invest in population health and the social determinants of health. There is a lot of research out there to support these approaches.”

Paul Valone, president Grass Roots North Carolina

“That so many people consider health care to be a “fundamental right” says much about the intentional destruction of our education system over the past 50 years. Are people advocating that we emulate “the poorest countries”? Such countries often violate the *true* rights of citizens, including killing or imprisoning them for purely political ends. Rights are not truly rights if a government feels free to ignore them.”

Anita Brown-Graham, UNC professor, Director of NCImpact

“Work to find coverage opportunities for as many people as possible.”

Pamela Davies, President Queens Univerity of Charlotte

“Universal healthcare is only possible if providers, insurers and policy makers work together to develop workable solutions. Regulation without the input and buy-in of those who have to deliver these services will undoubtedly fail.”

Carol Folt, Chancellor UNC Chapel Hill

“More than 70 years ago, the World Health Organization adopted a tenant in its constitution: The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition. As a nation, we must be equally committed to these fundamental rights for all of our citizens.

“I believe we can solve the toughest challenges, but UNC Chapel Hill cannot do this alone. In partnership with other universities, hospitals, healthcare policy experts and our state’s leadership, I know we can eliminate healthcare service gaps and do it both efficiently and at a cost that makes sense. At UNC, we are committed to getting even more healthcare professionals out in our rural and inner city areas. Our medical school is growing and we are increasing our number of residents, training these professionals in the right skills and most vitally needed disciplines.

“We also will continue to improve upon our statewide, integrated health care system. Our focus on high quality, life-changing research will lead to new, early diagnosis techniques and regimens that tackle the toughest medical challenges.”

How to participate

Your Voice is an ongoing conversation between readers, the 60 NC Influencers and policy makers in our state. Over the next six months we’re asking readers like you what matters most to you about a particular policy issue. After you’ve weighed in online, we’ll hold a Your Voice vote to see which reader’s response resonates most. Then, we’ll put that question to the NC Influencers. To participate just click on the Your Voice link embedded in every Influencer series story.

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