UN Human Rights Body Enters the United States Healthcare Policy Debate

Alexander J. Segal's picture

On April 26, 2017, Dana Milbank, a left-wing pundit at the Washington Post, reported that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights in Geneva sent a letter to the Trump administration suggesting that repealing the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) would potentially violate “international law.” The Trump Administration could avoid this fate if it accompanied repeal with a substitute deemed adequate by the Office of the U.N. Commissioner on Human Rights [PDF version].1

Even by the standards of the United Nations — which we have discussed on site [see blog] — this letter is patently ridiculous. Endeavoring to replace a disastrous piece of legislation to improve the United States health insurance market is hardly a pressing issue for international law scholars and litigators. Furthermore, even a supporter of Obamacare would have to admit that given the myriad human rights abusers in the world [see blog for example], wading into U.S. domestic politics hardly seems like the best use of resources of the U.N. High Commissioner of Human Rights. Even the former President Obama himself never made such an appeal to the best of my knowledge. However, given the inordinate amount of time the Commissioner, Prince Zeid bin Ra'ad of Jordan, spends slandering Israel, perhaps it is an improvement for the Council.

While this may seem like a parody to most observes, Dana Milbank took the U.N. letter quite seriously in his report.

First, he stated, disapprovingly, that President Trump and Congressional Republicans “scoff at lectures from U.N. bureaucrats, particularly on domestic affairs…” The U.N. should be scoffed at on all affairs, foreign and domestic, but I will address that point further at the end of the article. Milbank, an avid supporter of Obamacare, stated that “the U.N. letter is at least a bit of moral support for those defending Obamacare.” Republican efforts to repeal and/or replace Obamacare in the early days of the Trump Administration have ineffectual at best. However, if “those defending Obamacare” need moral support from a virulently anti-Semitic body that does little more than attack Israel on a daily basis, they are in surprisingly dire straits.

Finally, Milbank wrote the following:

The Trump administration has shown contempt for such considerations by failing to pass along the U.N. letter to congressional leaders.

The Washington Post was so alarmed by the election of President Trump that it adopted the slogan, “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” Apparently, facing an existential crisis that threatens democracy in the United States, Dana Milbank uses his platform to fret over President Trump not sending the equivalent of an article in The Onion to congressional leaders.

The United Nations Human Rights Council works closely with the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. While the U.N. High Commissioner keeps tabs on U.S. domestic health policy and the Human Rights Council tries to come up with creative ways to lie about Israel, perhaps they could be persuaded to examine the human rights situations in some of its member states. For the purpose of this article, I will limit the list to ten examples:

Saudi Arabia;
United Arab Emirates; and

In the following video, Hillel Neuer of UN Watch does a remarkable job of exposing the bizarre priorities and blatant hypocrisy of the U.N.'s “human rights” apparatus:

After all of these critiques of the United Nations, we should end on a positive note. On April 24, 2017, the United Nations elected Saudi Arabia to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.2 We can only wonder if Saudi Arabia will use its new platform to advocate for protecting women from driving. There is plenty of room to disagree with any number of President Trump's policies, including his position on health policy. However, in disagreeing or offering a critique of President Trump, one undercuts his or her argument by citing to a ridiculous charade by the United Nations as an authoritative source.

We can only hope President Trump and his administration reassess the United States' relationship with the United Nations going forward.


  1. Milbank, Dana. “Apparently repealing Obamacare could violate international law.” Washingtonpost.com. (Apr. 25, 2017)
  2. Shelbourne, Mallory. “Saudi Arabia elected to UN women's rights commission.” Thehill.com. (Apr. 23, 2017.)
UN Human Rights Body Enters the United States Healthcare Policy Debate