Is Healthcare a Universal Right? Or a Privilege? Or Does the Government Just Not Give a Damn?

Earlier this week as I was sitting at my computer working on my weekly questions for my Business Ethics class and as I prepared my response, I began to question my own sense of morality because I could not pick a side on the topic at hand.

There is debate on whether or not health care is a universal right that should be provided by governments.  One of the questions I had to address was the ethical, societal, and global issues involved in this debate and explain the moral basis for my opinion.

As I researched the various opinions on this topic, I was amazed at the reasons that each side presented in support of their beliefs. As one who is still in the corporate world and obtains my health insurance through my employer, I have not had exposure to the nightmare that so many have gone through upon implementation of the Affordable Health Care Act. My mother has Medicare as well as a supplemental plan with Humana, and frankly before all the changes started happening, she had no problems with the doctors in her health plan. But lately, Humana has been dropping her doctors left and right due to cost and it has put a large financial burden on our family.

However, having read both sides of the argument, I am still torn as to whether health care should be considered a universal right. There are convincing opinions on each side, first and foremost having to do with the wording of the Constitution and whether or not the right to health care is inferred in our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Simply put, because the aforementioned rights may only be possible with the right of health care, it stands to reason that this right should be assumed to be included. I’m not quite sure I agree with that, as lack of health care may not negate happiness. It may make life harder, but it is not a sole reason for happiness.

One item I learned from my research is that the Affordable Care Act has a provision in it which is called “community rating.” What this means is that insurers must “charge their costliest customers a maximum of three times what they charge their least-costly customers (Roy, 2013, p. 7). Frankly, I think this is unethical; if the Government created the health care plan with the intent of making it affordable, why flip the switch and make it more expensive for those people who can actually afford it? It makes no sense to me.

With the above being said, I still cannot make up my mind. Morally, I think everyone should have access to some type of health care. Why should someone who is barely making ends meet not get treatment that could save their lives because they have no insurance? But healthcare as a universal right, forcing those who can afford it to pay for those who can’t? I’m not sure. Does the decision come down to the disease or condition; i.e., did the individual’s way of life cause their health problems? Should we be required to pay medical costs associated with a smoker who has lung cancer or an alcoholic who has cirrhosis? Morally, perhaps. But putting health care in the same category as food and shelter, which some see as the difference between life and death and hence happiness….still I’m not sure.

I know I have been all over the place with this particular question, so perhaps the best thing to do would be to ask ourselves, “If I had no health care and could not afford it, what would my answer be?” In closing, I am reminded of the movie John Q, starring Denzel Washington – remember that one? His son needed a new heart, but because insurance would not cover the surgery the family could not afford to have it done. And they had health insurance! The bottom line is citizens in our country are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Paying an insurance premium that is more than a mortgage payment is just not right; perhaps the “universal right” should not be healthcare, rather the ability to live without fear of drowning in doctor bills.

SB/2014

Ref:

Dalrymple, T. Is There a Right to Health Care? (2009). Retrieved from http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052970203517304574306170677645070

Roy, A. Yes, Health Care is a Right – An Individual Right. (2013). Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/theapothecary/2013/03/28/yes-health-care-is-a-right-an-individual-right/

Schimmel, N. (2013). The Place of Human Rights in American Efforts to Expand and Universalize Healthcare. Human Rights Review, 14(1), 1. doi:10.1007/s12142-012-0247-x

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