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Who To Ask for help: The Government or AI? The Dilemma of Affordable Healthcare

While we often talk about new technological developments and innovation here on Constitutional Discourse, construed in a legal and philosophical context, the future of the application of AI in the health sector has thus far been rarely mentioned. This is because – just like the usage of DNA testing to fight crime or help identify diseases – there is an obstacle from its wide-spread utilization: its price. Now, the time has come to address the issue given a worthy cause.

There have been numerous instances both in Hungary, as well as abroad in which families of children with specific diseases had to set up a GoFundMe page or try to gain access to expensive medicine in another way through fundraising. Recently, the case of Geri Kovács, a Hungarian 4-year-old took the country by storm through a social media campaign, as he would need $3.2 million to obtain gene therapy for his Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD).

His story, just like that of numerous others, is a reflection of how innovative technologies and medical devices are inaccessible to the wider public. Which begs the question: from a legal standpoint, should there be change enacted? What are the drawbacks and advantages of free healthcare? And can the right to health be granted in a system of unequal prices? The thought process of the US and the EU significantly differ on these issues.

In the European Union, the right to health and other health-related human rights are legally binding commitments on countries, which have a legal obligation to develop and implement legislation and policies that guarantee universal access to quality health services. However, this does not entail an obligation of the state to provide access to expensive and particular medical components, such as the aforementioned gene therapy. Transparency of medication prices is becoming a huge human rights’ issue though, that the EU must tackle as well. Affordability is a problem for countries too, not just families.

In 2015, the World Health Organization included several expensive medicines in their model list of essential medicines, and The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights started a conversation about progressive realization. Unfortunately, promoting fair prices and cost-effective interventions is not enough, as comparative cost–effectiveness should be placed before individual right to health, so that one person’s reimbursement cannot override the needs of the community. Therefore, the right to health covers a lot of areas of life, but not these instances.

Consequently, universal access to medicine is rather limited, as national medicines policies mostly contain measures for medicines selection and efficient cost-effectiveness. Barring state subsidies, the challenge that a person’s right to health is up against when it comes to access to healthcare is the economic evaluation of a medicine, as reasonable compensation should be paid for firms’ investment. Because of high costs, many US residents are in medical debt or unable to pay for healthcare. But would universal healthcare be the solution? Well, definitely not in cases like Geri Kovács’s. However, a universal healthcare system has many pros and cons, like reduced quality of care despite increased reliance on preventive care.

Whether we are on the side of universal healthcare or not, one thing we must make sure of is to use technological innovation for the benefit of humanity. AI might just be the gateway to fixing many of the problems I have mentioned here, such as providing better access to quality care, lowering the cost of manufacturing medical devices and even creating new drugs to help cure diseases. This is why the development of AI is a turning point for humanity. With its help, we may not need ask for financial assistance or debate universal healthcare in the future, but utilize it to alleviate our own burdens and take care of our family ourselves – without help from an outside source.

Mónika Mercz, JD, is specialized in English legal translation, Junior Researcher at the Public Law Center of Mathias Corvinus Collegium Foundation in Budapest while completing a PhD in Law and Political Sciences at the Károli Gáspár University of the Reformed Church in Budapest, Hungary. Mónika’s past and present research focuses on constitutional identity in EU Member States, with specific focus on essential state functions, data protection aspects of DNA testing, environment protection, children’s rights and Artificial Intelligence.

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