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Commentary
December 15, 2010

The Right to Health as the Unheralded Narrative of Health Care Reform

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, Georgetown University Law Center, and Physicians for Human Rights, Washington, DC (Mr Friedman); and Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island (Dr Adashi).

JAMA. 2010;304(23):2639-2640. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.1845

In passing the Affordable Care Act, the United States took a giant, if partial, step toward joining other nations wherein the right to health constitutes an inalienable moral and legal right. Although not widely appreciated, the right of every person to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health1 (the right to health for short) is not merely an abstract moral imperative. Rather, it is an established international legal precept still to be fully embraced in the United States. Even though the right to health was overshadowed during the health care debate by other narratives, such as insurance reform, cost control, and care delivery, this right remains a central if unheralded narrative of the Affordable Care Act and its legacy.

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