Dissent: Austerity and European Universal Health Care

A great human disaster is now unfolding in the many Eurozone countries that have agreed to slash spending, wages, and living standards to meet the demands of fiscal austerity. One facet of this story that has received far too little attention, however, is the effect of these measures on the health of these nations…

Find it here in the Spring 2013 issue of Dissent.


One response

  1. I read your article and I agree with your main points completely, but I was disappointed that you didn’t mention the influence of so called “free trade agreements” like the WTO GATS services treaty on the provision of public healthcare. As far as I can tell, one of the reasons public healthcare is being dismembered is these trade agreements which serve a number of inappropriate purposes – They ban new “government monopolies” as “trade barriers” and then sanction countries that might dare to “revert” to one after any steps to privatize – involving globalization- They attempt to act as one way streets to privatization by making all changes in that direction irreversible if any multinationals become involved- (this is why Americans should fear “selling one policy across state lines” because it would block single payer forever) They also put (often unionized) service jobs in healthcare, education, and other formerly public services on the table as bargaining chips which countries then can “trade away” to get their corporations access to foreign markets. I think these agreements are the biggest threat to affordable healthcare globally. This was what PNHP intern Nick Skala was researching before he died. He has one paper which I haven’t been able to get a copy of, which looks like it lays it all out. Its on PubMed

    Int J Health Serv. 2009;39(2):363-87.
    The potential impact of the World Trade Organization’s general agreement on trade in services on health system reform and regulation in the United States.
    Skala N.

    Northwestern University School of Law, Chicago, IL 60611, USA. n-skala@law.northwestern.edu

    The collapse of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Doha Round of talks without achieving new health services liberalization presents an important opportunity to evaluate the wisdom of granting further concessions to international investors in the health sector. The continuing deterioration of the U.S. health system and the primacy of reform as an issue in the 2008 presidential campaign make clear the need for a full range of policy options for addressing the national health crisis. Yet few commentators or policymakers realize that existing WTO health care commitments may already significantly constrain domestic policy options. This article illustrates these constraints through an evaluation of the potential effects of current WTO law and jurisprudence on the implementation of a single-payer national health insurance system in the United States, proposed incremental national and state health system reforms, the privatization of Medicare, and other prominent health system issues. The author concludes with some recommendations to the U.S. Trade Representative to suspend existing liberalization commitments in the health sector and to interpret current and future international trade treaties in a manner consistent with civilized notions of health care as a universal human right.


    There are some additional resources on citizen.org such as:

    http://www.citizen.org/documents/PresidentialWTOreport.pdf (See page 10)