Ban Ki-moon, the former Secretary General of the United Nations, is calling on the United States to abandon its profit-driven healthcare system.
In a speech this week at the United Nations headquarters in New York City, the former UN leader tied America’s unique epidemic of regularly occurring mass shootings to its healthcare system, which he said “ultimately functions to prioritize profit over care.”
“It simply breaks my heart to see victims of tragic mass shootings then be potentially bankrupted because they cannot afford the hospital and recovery bills,” Ban Ki-moon said in his speech, adding that “powerful interests” were responsible for the United States remaining the only nation among the richest 25 countries to not provide healthcare as a right to its citizens.
The ex-Secretary General also reminded the audience of the public consequences for citizens not being able to afford basic healthcare.
“In the US, all too often only rich people get access to expensive life-saving treatments,” Ban said. “This is unjust and threatens everybody’s health when working- and middle-class people with communicable diseases cannot afford treatment for their infections.”
“You simply cannot reach universal health coverage if your health system is dominated by private financing and ultimately functions to prioritize profit over care,” he added.
Ban Ki-moon’s comments about “powerful interests” are undoubtedly in reference to private health insurance companies, which would stand to lose the most if the United States adopted a single-payer healthcare system similar to other industrialized countries like the UK, Canada, or Germany.
The Center for Responsive Politics found that three of the top five insurance industry donors to politicians and causes are health insurance companies. Health insurance giant Blue Cross/Blue Shield led the pack with more than $14 million in contributions, followed closely by America’s Health Insurance Plans ($4.8 million) and Cigna ($3.9 million).
The former UN Secretary General’s speech was, according to The Guardian, part of an organized push by health advocates all over the world for the U.S. to adopt a public healthcare system. Economist Robert Yates, of the international think tank Chatham House, noted that this is the first time the international community has been so invested in pushing for the United States to be like the rest of the industrialized world in how it provides healthcare to its citizens.
“The World Health Organization is thinking as well about how we can help here in the US,” Yates said.
Currently, the only existing legislation to provide universal healthcare in the United States is the Medicare for All Act, authored by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and cosponsored by 16 other Senate Democrats. It’s unlikely the bill will make its way to President Trump’s desk, as both houses of Congress remain under Republican control.
Scott Alden is a freelance contributor covering national politics, education, and environmental issues. He is a proud Toledo University graduate, and lives in the suburbs of Detroit.