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December 3, 2003

Proposals for US National Health Insurance

JAMA. 2003;290(21):2797. doi:10.1001/jama.290.21.2798-c

To the Editor: The Physicians' Working Group for Single-Payer National Health Insurance1 stated "Access to comprehensive health care is a human right." There is a difference, however, between "health as a human right" and "health care as a human right."

The World Health Organization defines "health" as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity.2 This physical, mental, and social well-being is a human right. An individual may choose to live in this state and this is his or her right. An individual may choose to exercise and eat a balanced diet or may choose to smoke, drink, eat unhealthy food, or be a couch potato. This power to choose a state of physical, mental, or social health is derived from one‘s right to health.