Universal Basic Right to Water

Universal Basic Right to Water is a collection of approaches that guarantee the necessary amount of safe water to everyone in the United States for the minimal purpose of ensuring personal and public health.

The Brief

As the U.S. healthcare system shifts toward value-based services and support that address drivers of health outside the traditional scope of health care programs, Medicaid, Medicare and the Affordable Care Act could lead the way in addressing economic, social, equitable issues by re-connect the water infrastructure to public health issues which will safeguard clean water access for all Americans.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention attributes the disinfection and treatment of water as “the greatest health achievement of the 20th century” by increasing life expectancy by 29.5 years, virtually eliminating water borne diseases in the US and by cutting mortality rates in half over the past century[1]. The World Health Organization estimates that implementing universal access to basic water and sanitation program would create $4 of economic benefit for every $1 invested[2]

[1] The US Center for Disease Control, 2016

[2] The World Health Organization, 2012

Policy Concept

Can health care payers and providers that serve Medicaid and Medicare enrollees cover a minimum monthly allocation of clean drinking water for all enrollees?

The concept may help achieve many goals at once: helping Americans pay their most important utility bill, curtailing water shut-offs, dismantling traditional power structures that can be weaponized against the poor, providing reliable funds to water utilities, and affirming that clean drinking water is a basic, inalienable right. Medicaid provides health care for one in five Americans, covering more than 72 million of the most vulnerable Americans.[1] This includes more than 12 million dually eligible Medicare enrollees who are seniors and people with disabilities.[2] These same families are at the highest risk of water shut-offs that put health in jeopardy while utilities struggle to recoup rising costs. Many programs exist to help American families pay their water bills and, separately, to provide critical funding for water utilities.



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